Mountain Mudd

From the pages of Restaurant Franchising
Montana-based coffee franchise offers a big concept in a small package.

Mountain Mudd franchise

A Mountain Mudd kiosk isn’t very big—just 64 square feet. At most, two people work at a given time to make espresso-blended drinks for busy, on-the-go drive-thru customers.

But for the franchisee who wants to minimize his or her risk of investment, Mountain Mudd offers an attractive model.

The initial investment is relatively modest at $110,000, which includes kiosk, equipment, training, permitting, and set up.

“We have a very seamless system,” says Gary Braaten, president of the company.

Plus, adds Braaten, Mountain Mudd kiosks require a small footprint of real estate where there is ease of traffic flow, fewer lease requirements, and significantly lower overhead. So, unlike brick and mortar facilities, the 8-foot by 8-foot kiosks can be moved elsewhere if market conditions change. A franchisee is able to provide specialty drive-thru beverages without the “upscale” cost basis.

Mountain Mudd began 15 years ago in Billings, Montana, and steadily grew to more than 85 units, 16 of which are company stores. In the fall of 2006, the company was purchased by CHS of Minneapolis, a diversified energy, grains, and foods company.

The low start-up cost and high availability of real estate has Mountain Mudd executives extremely optimistic.

”Our goal is to be at 500 units by 2014,” says Braaten. Since November 2007, the company has launched six new franchises in the U.S., eight in Lebanon with a Master Development Agreement, and six in Canada, and is now offering franchises in Mexico and in many other countries.

“One of the unique advantages to Mountain Mudd is that the model works really well in secondary markets, populations where some of the major specialty coffee operators probably aren’t going to go due to the population base,” Braaten says. “We have the ability to bring high-end specialty coffee to any market where there is a modest density of people.”

The strength and size of CHS has allowed for agreements with preferred vendors such as Murphy Oil USA—which operates gas stations at Sam’s Clubs and Wal-Marts—making prime locations for the Mountain Mudd brand available at a low cost.

There are other factors that drive success, too. For example, every franchisee attends “University of Mudd” in Billings, where they learn the ins and outs of operations. A support team arrives with the kiosk to make sure the owner can hit the ground running.

Owners can be proud of their coffee, a proprietary blend of nine different beans from around the world, roasted in the Old World tradition of oak wood fires. The end result is a coffee with “a lot of robust flavor without the charred tones or bitter aftertaste.” All told, Mountain Mudd has 90 registered trademarks and products.

Unlike brick and mortar facilities, the kiosks can be moved elsewhere if market conditions change.

Cafe models and modular units for event centers/office complexes are available to those who want an alternative to the kiosk model.

Mountain Mudd is registered in all 50 states and several foreign countries. Interested franchisees may attend one of the company’s Discovery Days at company headquarters in Billings.

“We’re affordable,” says Braaten. “And we’re aggressively looking for master franchisees or developers who will take our ingenious, high-quality products and develop a market.”

So it’s easy to see how this small concept, for the right owner, can be very, very big.

For more information about franchising opportunities with Mountain Mudd, visit www.mountainmudd.com.