Founded in 2018, Jakarta-based Fore Coffee currently operates 150 stores across Indonesia with a focus on value, seamless digital transactions and a central mission to champion the country’s coffee producers. As the coffee chain prepares to open its first international store in Singapore, World Coffee Portal caught up with CEO Vico Lomar to discuss the business’ ambitions at home and abroad
Vico Lomar, CEO, Fore Coffee | Photo credit: Fore Coffee
Vico Lomar is no stranger to the world of coffee. Having held managerial roles at Krispy Kreme and JCO Donuts and Coffee in Indonesia, Lomar helped bring Singapore’s Spinell Coffee Company to the country, before taking on senior roles at Excelso Coffee, Dunkin’ and Maxx Coffee.
He joined Fore Coffee in 2020, nearly two years after the coffee chain was established by Robin Boe and Elisa Suteja. Having co-led the business during the pandemic, Lomar returned Fore Coffee to profitability and outlet growth in 2021, became sole CEO in January 2022 and has overseen its expansion to 150 stores across 30 cities in Indonesia.
As Lomar tells World Coffee Portal, Fore Coffee’s mission goes beyond serving high-quality coffee, to champion Indonesian coffee culture on the global stage.
The coffee chain sources directly from farmers in regions such Aceh Gayo, Toraja, West Java, and Bali. With a ‘reverence for Indonesian soil’, the brand promotes its beverages as ‘honouring the unique ﬂavours of each region' while supporting local farming communities.
“Fore Coffee is a value-led brand driven by the high-quality of our coffee and the craft and skill of our baristas. Our mission as ambassadors of Indonesian coffee means every cup reflects a commitment to excellence, sustainability, and elevating the coffee experience into an art form,” Lomar says.
Launching its app in 2018, Fore Coffee was a relatively early adopter of digital sales channels. The chain’s online to offline strategy encompasses app-based pre-ordering and payment, as well as on-demand delivery from several platforms and walk-in orders.
“Supported by increased adoption of technology, including our Fore Coffee app, we aim to deliver impact beyond just enjoying a cup of coffee,” comments Lomar.
The Jakarta-based coffee chain also has a strong focus on sustainability. In August 2023, Fore Coffee partnered with domestic eco-furniture brand Robries to open an outlet at the Kuningan City Mall in southern Jakarta. Highlighting the need to reduce plastic waste, the store’s furniture, including tables, chairs and counters, is made from 450kg of recycled material from plastic cups.
“Every cup reflects a commitment to excellence and sustainability. By being committed to doing sustainable actions, we are responsible for our waste,” Lomar adds.
“Singaporeans have a strong affinity for coffee, averaging 6-7 cups per week”
All set for Singapore
Alongside plans for further expansion into Indonesia’s second and third tier cities, Fore Coffee’s first foray overseas is also imminent, with an outlet at the Bugis Junction shopping centre in Singapore set to open in November 2023.
“Singapore is considered the central business district of southeast Asia,” Lomar says.
With among the highest GDP per capita in the world, Singapore’s position as a major financial and trading hub has made it an attractive market for international coffee chains.
The country also has a strong first wave coffee heritage, with kopitiams – traditional east Asian venues serving coffee and light meals – still found throughout the city today. However, young people are increasingly seeking out international branded café culture, meaning there are opportunities aplenty for operators seeking a slice of Singapore’s caffeinated consumer base.
Boutique operators Café Kitsuné and Ralph’s Coffee have entered the market within the last 12 months, alongside value-focused chains such as Luckin Coffee, Kopi Kenangan and Compose Coffee.
“Singaporeans have a strong affinity for coffee, averaging 6-7 cups per week and this mature market presents a compelling opportunity for Fore Coffee to cater to growing demand for Indonesian beverages,” says Lomar.
To this end, Fore Coffee will be launching its signature range of Indonesian-inspired coffee beverages, including its bestselling Butterscotch Sea-salt Latte, oat Pandan Latte and Gula Aren Latte, which combines Arenga palm sugar with espresso – albeit with lower sugar content to suit local preferences “without compromising the taste”, Lomar assures.
Lomar with Chief Marketing Officer Matthew Ardian (left) and Fore Coffee’s Social & Sustainability Ambassador Cinta Laura Kiehl (centre) at an event celebrating the coffee chain’s upcoming Singapore debut | Photo credit: Fore Coffee
A stepping stone to Asia and beyond
While Fore Coffee has not announced a growth target for the Singapore market, the brand sees its debut in the city state as a stepping stone for further international expansion.
“Since Singapore is our first international market it also acts as a pilot movement to introduce Fore Coffee to new audiences and grab new markets globally. There are several areas that we have listed and reviewed,” Lomar says.
However, he describes its impending Singaporean debut as ‘baby step’ and says he is in ‘no rush’ for the next chapter of the brand’s international expansion.
“In the future we plan to develop the reach and variety of our products and find opportunities which enable us to adapt to new markets, so everyone can enjoy their cup of Fore Coffee,” Lomar concludes.
Singapore may be relatively small among East Asia’s fast growing branded coffee shop markets, but the city state punches above its weight when it comes to attracting the region’s up-and-coming operators. With Fore Coffee adding to a vibrant community of brands, Indonesian-grown coffee looks set to further grow its profile on the world stage.