Coffee Planet Managing Director, Robert Jones, speaks to World Coffee Portal about growing the coffee shop chain internationally, the importance of Arabic coffee heritage and why training, skills and expertise is vital to delivering its 360-degree coffee service
How has Coffee Planet developed its ‘360-degree’ coffee service for foodservice and consumer customers?
We first started our coffee venture in 2005, when the local coffee-landscape in the UAE was very different and somewhat ordinary. With the goal to help people experience the finest global Arabica coffee, we set out to look at how coffee was being made, who was growing what and how we could develop our own great tasting blends.
Our first task was to improve the quality of coffee sold on-the-go in highway convenience stores. We quickly got to work and signed our first partnership with two major blue-chip fuel companies in the UAE to serve our freshly roasted, 100% Arabica coffee. Since 2007 we have been providing a complete coffee solution to leading five-star hotels, catering companies, airlines and offices.
Describe your approach to training and skills, equipment and customer service
We believe it’s important for our staff to carry out their roles with perfection, excellence and flair, while remaining courteous and professional at all times. We encourage our staff to ignite their passion for coffee among our customers to bring the coffee experience to life in a consistent and informative manner.
We enable our team to expand their knowledge and qualify for top certifications. Among the team we have five Q-graders, and since there are only 4,000 in the world and only eight in the UAE, this really is a huge success and is part of the reason we can deliver such quality and consistency. Working with trusted partners; Nuova Simonelli & Eversys, among others, our staff receive regular training for the latest machine and equipment technology.
How does Coffee Planet source its coffee?
We endeavour to create the highest quality coffee blends and single origins. This involves working directly with coffee farmers, maintaining good relationships and ensuring they receive fair rates. The coffee supply chain is a complex operation and it is essential that our coffee is sold and dispatched as quickly as possible to ensure we deliver a freshly-roasted product. From our local roastery in Dubai we ensure that the delivery of our beans is always fresh with as little time in transit as possible, maintaining our reliability.
To ensure we receive the highest-quality specialty-graded Arabica coffee beans, we manage full traceability by sourcing our coffee directly from farmers in the coffee producing regions of Africa, Asia, Central and South America. Through our UTZ certification, we also recognise the importance of supporting the individual farmers. We work with them and support their families to learn better farming methods and pioneering educational and healthcare practices, as this is pivotal to nurturing the development of the specialty coffee industry.
Tell us about your Middle East franchise model
We have dedicated significant time and investment to enhance our ability to deliver freshly roasted, 100% Arabica specialty coffee to everyone around the world and our franchise model is aligned to this vision.
With current franchise outlets in the UAE, Qatar and Pakistan, potential franchisees can assess the benefit of a local brand with consumer knowledge of the region. We have recently opened our first managed outlet in Cardiff, United Kingdom aligning our strategic aim to increase our global presence.
Incorporating Coffee Planet’s Arabian heritage, the franchise design features a tribute to the UAE’s most iconic buildings while other inspiration has been taken from the crop-to-cup ethos of the brand with warm, earthy tones, exposed brick, brass, black tiling and wood finishes.
Coffee Planet's first UK store opened in Cardiff in June 2018
What are the key market trends and opportunities in the Middle East currently?
Consumers in the region are developing more of an appetite for specialty-grade coffee and it is our prerogative as a local coffee company to satiate these demands as well as indulge the customer with new specialty coffee experiences.
Having witnessed the need to serve guests with high-quality, specialty coffee as a top priority for the hotel sector, more and more of our customers are looking to offer something even more personal to their guests.
We recently launched a unique, co-branded blend with Rove Hotels in Dubai, combining our coffee expertise with the modern lifestyle brand. The blend was created specifically for Rove and has pioneered a new way to enhance the specialty coffee experience for guests at any of the hotel’s five locations around Dubai.
What are some of your most popular products?
Middle Eastern coffee drinkers enjoy a vast range of coffee strengths from light to dark roasts depending on the occasion but most notably, our specialty coffees are enjoyed with sweet, fresh milk.
Two of our most requested coffees within the foodservice category come from our Professional Series range of 100% Arabica specialty whole bean and ground coffee. The Professional Series Roast no.70 is a popular full-bodied blend with a natural sweetness and notes of dark chocolate and walnut.
The Coffee Planet Professional Series offers a diverse portfolio designed to cater to a wide variety of taste profiles so there will always be something that appeals to even the most discerning palates. The Professional Series Organic 50 is also a favourite and features a blend of UTZ-certified coffee from Peru.
Some of our other best-sellers include our high-quality single origin and micro-lot coffees. We re-launched our Origin range in 2017 with nine new varieties from nine different farms across the bean belt.
What are Coffee Planet’s plans for the future?
Coffee Planet has many plans and projects in the pipeline since signing our latest franchise deal with HB Brands, to open 70 outlets across Saudi Arabia. We plan to continue our expansion into the UK market after successfully opening our first in-house managed café in Cardiff city centre.
We plan to remain consistent with adding more product options to satisfy the hotel demand for great tasting single origin coffees and unique blends.
In addition to expanding our global presence, we will be launching new cold brew and nitro coffee options for foodservice clients within our Reserve range. We will also be continuing to develop our airline inflight and ground products alongside our complete full-service machine and maintenance solutions.
We continually look to diversify in this thriving market and it’s important to have something larger conglomerates don’t have. For Coffee Planet, born in Arabia, we have the advantage of being local, delivering our freshly roasted, 100% Arabica specialty coffee with a short turnaround time.
Project Café Middle East 2019 is Allegra World Coffee Portal’s groundbreaking study on the Middle East’s emerging branded coffee shop market. Our research provides in-depth industry analysis of the sector’s business, social and economic contributions across 12 Middle East markets.