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St. Pete coffee company gears up for new era of franchise operations

Kahwa Coffee Roasters wants to grow its brand throughout Florida and then the rest of the nation.

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Kahwa Coffee Roasters, St. Petersburg’s homegrown answer to Starbucks, has at long last taken steps to franchise its brand. Founded in 2006, Kahwa has 15 corporate-owned locations, and awareness of its brand has grown statewise thanks to wholesale partnerships with the likes of Publix, Mercedes Benz, Bayfront Hospital, the Tampa Bay Rays and the Tampa Bay Rowdies.

Kahwa co-founder Raphael Perrier says Kahwa has been ready to begin franchise operations for about five years but wanted to wait until there was no doubt that Kahwa was “a proven concept.” He adds, “15 years into this, with 15 shops, we feel that now is the right time.”

Perrier says he’s already received two “serious” inquiries and is in the due-diligence phase with both of them, but no franchise agreements have yet been signed. The franchise fee will be $40,000, he adds, and potential franchisees should expect to invest an additional $140,000 in equipment.

Kahwa Coffee co-founders Sarah and Raphael Perrier. (File photo)
Kahwa Coffee co-founders Sarah and Raphael Perrier. (File photo)

Kahwa will assist franchisees with site selection and other real estate matters, Perrier says, adding that franchisees will benefit from the lessons he and Sarah Perrier, his wife and business partner, have learned from their mistakes over the years.

“Some people would see that as a bad thing, but I think it's a good thing,” Perrier says. “We're able to tell them, ‘Hey, I would not do that’ or ‘I would recommend this.’ I think the experience that we have adds a big value.”

As for the location of franchise cafes, Perrier says he would like to start by growing Kahwa’s presence in north Tampa before expanding throughout the state and, eventually, the country. Nationally, he would like to see Kahwa in northeast markets such as Boston, New York and Philadelphia, particularly the latter, because the Perriers lived in the City of Brotherly Love for 10 years and still have connections there.

“Those are great markets for coffee,” he says. “Obviously, if it's cold, coffee sells a bit more than in Florida.”

Potential franchisees, Perrier adds, don’t necessarily need to have prior franchise business experience — knowledge of and passion for the Kahwa brand are the top priorities.

“We spoke with a lot of friends of ours in the franchising world in Tampa Bay,” he says, “and they told us, ‘You know, your best franchisees are your customers.’”


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