Biggby Coffee gets modular to jolt expansion – Crain’s Detroit Business

The coffee company employs 70 in corporate and 2,400 more through franchise owners. It saw $130 million in systemwide sales in 2018, up from $115 million in 2017 and $108 million in 2016. Its year-to-date sales are $76 million, but fall and winter — think pumpkin spice latte, caramel apple cider — provide a major chunk of income. It is growing at an 11.7 percent annual clip.

Early this year Biggby hired a chief development officer, Lisa Oak. The former Subway vice president helped the massive sandwich franchise’s store count balloon from 700 to 43,000.

The Connecticut resident who travels to Michigan wants to stretch Biggby’s brand recognition from its well-trodden home state into more regions and countries.

“Especially when I travel … I have to say, cult-like passion that exists with the customers of this brand. And that’s really, really exciting for me,” Oak said. “And at the same time, I come home, and nobody’s ever heard of it.”

Oak is helping Biggby expand on a 10-year scaling plan created in 2018.

It has 239 locations and aims to grow to 340 by the end of 2021, then more than 1,400 by the end of 2028. McFall and Oak declined to elaborate on how many of those would be B Cubed. More B Cubed locations are in the pipeline in Birch Run, Swartz Creek, Grand Rapids, Indiana and Ohio.

B Cubed has a two-pronged origin story.

McFall and Fish saw a McDonald’s built out of stacked shipping containers in March 2017 while on a visit to Jakarta, Indonesia (a Biggby opened there about a month ago).

“It was so dynamic. We hung out there for an hour, just taking pictures and walking around,” McFall said. “So we came back with this idea of using (shipping) containers for development. And within 30 days, we had Jeff Konczak, who is our owner in Alpena, approach us and say he wanted to build modular drive-thrus. Those two moments collided.”

McFall and Fish said yes to Konczak, who founded BCubed Manufacturing LLC. It now build shops for Biggby at the 150,000-square-foot former ATI Castings foundry in Alpena — “all the way down to the handwashing stickers over the sink,” McFall said.

The shops arrive on-site in several large chunks, then get fitted together and bolted down. Since utility companies aren’t used to the expedited building timeline, though, getting hooked up to electric and gas can cause delays somewhere around 10 days, Fish said.

B Cubed takes up small slots that may otherwise have no use for a landowner, such as extra parking spaces or lawn near a mall, shopping complex or big-box retailer.

Robert Gibbs, founder of Gibbs Planning Group, a planning, landscape architecture and real estate advisory firm based in Birmingham, said he sees the B Cubed model as a “win-win.” It would create revenue for parking lot space, commanding good frontage to drive traffic to a shopping center and likely boosting sales at the retailers it’s joining by around 3 percent-5 percent, he said.

“There are probably multi-hundred numbers of sites in Southeast Michigan they could deploy these stores in,” Gibbs said. “A lot of the commercial shopping centers have excess parking. The new parking standards are half of what they were 15 years ago.”

Annalise Frank: (313) 446-0416 Twitter: @annalise_frank