Q&A: Espresso House CEO, Anssi Thureson

Espresso House is the Nordic region’s largest coffee chain, operating almost 500 coffee shops in Sweden, Norway, Finland, Denmark alongside stores in Germany. Anssi Thureson, who was appointed the brand's CEO in May 2022, speaks to World Coffee Portal about the chain’s digital revolution since the pandemic, striving to be a best-in-class employer and the growing opportunities for plant-based dairy alternatives

Anssi Thureson, CEO, Espresso House | Photo credit: Espresso House


 

Opening its first coffee shop in Lund, Sweden in 1996, Espresso House now operates almost 500 stores across Sweden, Norway, Finland, Denmark and Germany.  
 

Having started his career at German supermarket Lidl, Thureson joined Espresso House in 2015 as CEO of Espresso House Finland, where he has successfully established the company's operations and opened 60 coffee shops in the country. 
 

He was promoted from Chief Commercial Officer to CEO in May 2022 after his predecessor John Nylén stepped down after 18 years within the company. 
 

What have been some of the key milestones for the business in the last 25 years?   
 

We opened our first coffee shop in Lund, a Swedish university town, in 1996 and our first bakery in 2009. We launched in Norway in 2013, in Finland in 2015 and in Denmark in 2016.  
 

In 2017 we opened our own roastery outside Stockholm and moved to a new bakery in Malmö. In 2018 we launched our first store outside of the Nordics in Germany. 2019 we gave our brand a face lift and launched pre-order and pre-payment in our app. In 2020, during the Covid-19 pandemic, our coffee subscription was launched.  

 

What is the current state of the branded coffee shop market across the Nordic region and how has the appetite for coffee developed?   

 

In the Nordics we consume the most coffee in the world and we want our guests to explore the endless world of premium coffee. Throughout the years interest, appetite and innovation in the branded coffee shop market have grown tremendously. We see a strong demand and market trend for flavoured coffee beverages and we closely follow global trends to meet and exceed our guests’ expectations in both classical and more innovative flavours with an interesting twist.  
 

It is very interesting to follow colleagues in the trade, and I believe we often share the same picture. In the summer months we introduced cold brew on tap to meet the strong global trend of iced coffee drinks. I believe that our draft platform serves as an inspiration as we were the first chain to start this journey on a larger scale. 

 

Has the pandemic changed how Espresso House operates?  

 

We strengthened our digital sales channels through our app in response to the pandemic and subsequent changed patterns in guest behaviour. Alongside the ability to pre-order, we launched an in-store coffee subscription in December 2020 and enhanced third-party deliveries which provide a smooth and fast on-the-go experience for our food and beverage products. Collectively the three channels increased our ability to reach beyond our current channels.  
 

Our digital channels were turbo-charged during the Covid-19 pandemic but remain a strategic objective to Espresso House moving forward. 

 

Subscription is a model that we strongly believe in. It means our subscribers can pick up a new beverage every second hour and try out new favourites. We welcome our subscribers to our outlets more often than regular guests and while in-store we hope to inspire them to try out some other products from our range.  
 

Subscription is a way of competing with other coffee sources like home brewing and convenience stores and our ongoing strategic ambition is to reach beyond our regular guests.  

Westfield Mall of Scandinavia, Stockholm | Photo credit: Espresso House


 

How does Espresso House maintain its stated commitment to employees, culture and heritage?

 

Our people are the heart of Espresso House operations. They meet and greet our guests every day and operate our daily business, and this is why a strong people culture is the foundation of our brand. Whether you are an 18-year-old barista or working in our office you should feel that you are part of the Espresso House family.  
 

You always remember your first job and we are many people’s first employer. Therefore, it is our responsibility to make a fantastic start to people’s work life. To make this happen we need to pay close attention to onboarding, training and good leadership. Also, we need to focus on how to develop and simplify operational tasks for our employees while at the same time meet the expectations of our guests.  


The Nordic heritage is important to us. I believe there is something unique about the experience of our Nordic approach to coffee and hospitality with service and work that sets us apart. All our guests get a friendly ‘hi!’ from our baristas. We see our guests and we know our regulars’ preferences by heart.  

 

How are plant-based products playing a greater role in your business?

 

We know that our food habits have an impact on our planet and providing more plant-based products for our guests is a key part of the brand’s sustainability promise.  
 

We have something for all ages, preferences and tastes and we want to inspire our guests to try new products and new flavours, especially in the plant-based category.  


This year we extended an existing partnership with Oatly to serve Oatly Barista Edition across all Espresso House coffee shops in the Nordics and Germany. 


In terms of our goal, we reached our target of 50% of our menu being available as plant-based across all markets in June 2022. We are curious about the endless possibilities within plant-based products, both in beverages and food, but we never compromise with taste: taste always comes first.  


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