The former tennis player David Hodgetts is netting impressive sucess with Triple Two Coffee
From hordes of commuters carrying Costa cups to Instagram being flooded by photos of Starbucks pumpkin spice lattes, you’d think that the last thing Britain needs is another coffee franchise. However, David Hodgetts, co-founder and director at Triple Two Coffee, is no stranger to competition. “I left school at 13 to pursue a career as a professional tennis player,” he says. Having trained in both Spain and London and being ranked as one of the top European tennis players in his age bracket at 16, it looked like Hodgetts was well on his way to realise his dream. Unfortunately, his career would prove to be short-lived. “I had a really bad shoulder injury that caused me to stop early when I was around 19,” he says. Ironically, while the injury meant the end of his Wimbledon dreams, it would serve him with the opportunity to flex his entrepreneurial muscles.
Having worked as a tennis coach in Cheltenham to save up money, Hodgetts decided to try his hand in the coffee industry. However, while his first experience gave him a chance to work alongside his co-founder Sezan Walker, it left bitter aftertaste. “I made the decision to buy into a brand that I don’t want to name,” Hodgetts says. “We worked for them for six months and during that time we saw a lot of things we felt that they did wrong.” Even though the company kept growing, both Walker and Hodgetts felt something was off. “We totally disagreed with their ethos but it did open our eyes to the fresh food and coffee market,” says Hodgetts. “And we left thinking we could do it better.”
While the company wasn’t for them, it helped the partners identify a gap in the market. “There are a lot of coffee shops that do crap food, like Costa, Starbucks and Caffé Nero,” Hodgetts says. “So it became evident that there was a need for a place that did both great coffee and food.” There was just one problem: consultants kept insisting upon knowing what their USP would be, something almost impossible in such a crowded market. “There were actually times when it became quite irritating because it was a mature market so there weren’t many USPs left,” he says. “Instead we just wanted to do everything others did but better.”
Recognising that they needed to get both the food and the coffee right from the get-go in order to make an impact, the founders doubled down on their efforts to source the best suppliers. “Before launching we found a family-owned coffee roaster that helped us make the best blend,” Hodgetts says. “We didn’t want it to be too artisanal but still way better than Costa. It took about ten visits to get it right but it’s now about 90% Arabica beans and 10% Robusta.” Having sourced high-quality brews, the founders set out to ensure their food was beyond compare as well. Not only did they have a consultancy help them get the best supplies but the franchisor also hired a head chef to ensure the tastiness of its tuck. “And we’ve just been continuing to develop the menu since,” Hodgetts says.
To boost their advantage, the founders also did their utmost to create a buzz among customers. “We spent a fortune on the branding and design,” Hodgetts says. Nevertheless, their biggest play to strengthen their brand was to open a small kiosk 18 months before the launch of their first shop in Swindon. “We barely marketed the kiosk but we got a lot of success immediately because we looked like a brand,” says Hodgetts. “Customers don’t want something to that looks too artisanal or too established. We had great sales right away because we walked that balance.”
Invigorated by the experience, the founders opened their first store in Swindon in 2016. “And our sales have exceeded Starbucks’, Greggs’, Costa’s and McDonald’s per square foot,’” says Hodgetts. Having proven the success of their model and completed both their operations manual and franchise agreement, the founders launched on Franchise Direct, the franchise directory, in April 2017. “And we’ve basically received more enquiries than any food and drink brand on there,” he claims.
But given the effort he and Walker went through to launch Triple Two Coffee, Hodgetts expects nothing but the best from candidates looking to join the network. “We’re looking for star franchisees,” he explains. “We want people who’ve bought into the brand and can drive it forward.” To ensure that only the best get accepted, the founders meet every prospective franchisee face-to-face before signing the contract. “Most of them like what they see and get the concept,” he says. “If they don’t, they are obviously not for us.”
This approach has certainly served him in good stead as Triple Two Coffee has already added a few franchisees to its roster. “We’ve got seven franchisees signed up,” says Hodgetts. These new members of the network range are located from Bristol in the west to London in the east to Glasgow in the north. “That’s where we are at the moment,” he says. “But we plan to roll out a further 30 sites next year and then open more than 100 stores by 2020.”
Having already launched a range of coffee capsules and recently became one of the few coffee chains registered on Deliveroo, the food-delivery app, Hodgetts has more planned for the future. “We ultimately want to take our brand into other avenues,” says Hodgetts. Drawing inspiration from Virgin, he believes the Triple Two coffee can work in several different industries that have similar qualities to the coffee sector. “For instance, we are not against going into the hotel industry: there is nothing stopping us,” he says. “But that’s probably at least two or three years away.”
While the injury forced Hodgetts to give up his tennis career, clearly he has hit an ace with Triple Two Coffee.