Q&A with Brian Balconi
Our team at Franchising USA had a chance to sit down with Brian Balconi, Vice President – USA of Gloria Jean’s Coffees, to learn more about the growth and success of the company.
Our questions are in bold. Hope you enjoy reading.
What is your professional background?
Prior to joining Gloria Jean’s Coffees, I held executive-level positions in the restaurant and franchise industries with two iconic brands – Little Caesars and Dunkin’ Brands (Dunkin’ Donuts, Baskin-Robbins and Togo’s).
My background is in business and law. Soon after earning my business and law degrees, I became a franchise attorney. In the years following, I transitioned to a series of executive roles on the franchisor side of the business including Vice President and General Counsel.
How has your background prepared you for your current role with Gloria Jean’s Coffees?
Before my various roles with franchisors, I was an attorney representing franchisees, which gave me an introduction to the industry through the eyes of the store owners. Later, as an in-house attorney and executive, I spent much of my time finding solutions to challenges that arose in various stages of operating the business as well as tackling difficult projects and strategic initiatives across the company. These experiences taught me the importance of franchise relationships, as well as what works and what doesn’t work in a franchised restaurant environment.
How does Gloria Jean’s Coffees differentiate itself within the fast casual café segment?
Gloria Jean’s Coffees is known for its variety and flavors of coffee, as well as its specialty beverages. For instance, in the spring we will be highlighting our Pistachio Crème flavor by offering Pistachio Crème lattes, chillers and whole-bean coffee. The quality of our coffee is very important to us, so much so that we roast our own coffee beans at our facility in California. Our attention to quality and consistency is how our Ethiopian Yirgacheffe won “Best Overall” in the Franchise/Chain category at the 2015 Golden Bean North America roasting competition (a blind tasting competition hosted annually by industry professionals).
Where do you see Gloria Jean’s Coffees in the next five years? What about the next ten years?
Our primary focus is to support our existing franchisees by helping them grow their current operations through the addition of new units. Our secondary focus is to bring on new franchisees that are interested in joining the Gloria Jean’s family and bringing our award-winning coffee to their community.
Who is your typical franchisee?
Our franchisees are passionate about the Gloria Jean’s Coffee brand. They love educating their guests about the different types of coffees; as well as helping them enjoy the experience of an expanding coffee culture. Many franchisees operate a single location, while others are multi-unit operators who aspire to continue to build their business.
What type of support does Gloria Jean’s Coffees provide its franchise partners?
We provide support through in-depth training on espresso standards and the guest experience. Our field-based operations team provides franchisees with best practices and ongoing guidance to grow their business. Our support office team works to produce innovative, specialty products for our seasonal campaigns throughout the year.
Do you have any advice for our readers who are exploring franchise opportunities?
My advice is to choose a franchise concept that you are passionate about bringing to your community. Prospective franchisees need to gauge their level of excitement about the products and the brand experience. If they aren’t enthusiastic about the concept, I recommend they move on to a different franchise opportunity.
Brian Balconi is the Vice President of Gloria Jean’s Coffees USA. Founded in 1979, Gloria Jean’s Coffees was started by Gloria Jean Kvetko in Chicago as a small coffee and gift shop. In 2014, Retail Food Group Ltd. (RFG), one of the world’s largest multi-brand retail food franchisors and leading wholesale coffee roasters, acquired Gloria Jean’s Coffees with plans to grow the brand through franchising throughout the U.S. There are currently 59 locations in more than 21 states across the country.