The Caribou Coffee International Story


Caribou Coffee is an instantly recognizable brand in Minnesota and probably where you got your coffee this morning, but most are not aware of their significant international presence.

Minnesota Commercial Real Estate Women (MNCREW) gathered at the Millennium Hotel in Minneapolis on October 26, 2016.  This month’s event featured the following key members of Caribou’s International Team:  Darren Miles, Vice President International; Miah Boerner, International Operations Business Manager; and Angela Moccia, International Franchise Design Manager.  They highlighted their global real estate story, focusing on the unique challenges associated with design, supply chain management, and marketing their brand in the Middle East and Asia.

International expansion has provided the team with many challenges and opportunities for learnings.  Challenges have included assuming systems that worked well in the US would work as well in other areas.   As the guest experience is paramount, areas that were noted as core included branding and platform products.  Store design and the addition of local products were areas that were adaptable.  Most unique local product – cupcakes in shakes!

Every country is unique and they learned that domestic playbook just doesn’t work.  Letting the local team lead, has been the best approach.  This has been specifically evident in the site selection process as the criteria has varied widely.  One example, terraces have been critical to store’s success in certain regions.

Caribou has about 260 store internationally.  Ms. Boerner shared that Caribou has made a very deliberate move to use better (natural) ingredients.   Just try to imagine the challenges related to food labeling and specifically, needing to label all products in native languages.

Supply chain considerations are critical to running an efficient and economical business.  They shared stories of the importance of proactively coordinating promotions with the supply chain team to ensure the products could be sourced, shipped and delivered on time.

While the time went quickly, I would have liked to learn more about how they encourage internal innovation as well as how they collaborate within their industry.  When asked what they are they famous for, Mr. Miles stated, “Caribou Coffee is deliberate about creating an experience and being agile.”  These key attributes seem to be serving them (and their customers) well.