Butcher expects the creation of Panera Brands to play a significant role in achieving those franchising benchmarks. Each of the fast casuals fall under JAB Holdings, a German-based conglomerate that purchased Caribou for $340 million in 2012, back when the chain had a little more than 600 stores in 22 states, Washington, D.C., and 10 international markets.
Caribou should have plenty of experience to rely on; according to the QSR 50, Panera ended 2020 with 1,196 franchise units in the U.S. and Einstein finished with 337. Butcher thinks Panera Brands presents an opportunity for Caribou to “outpunch our weight class.”
“Each company operates independently and we are each accountable to drive the growth and serve our guests as appropriate for our strategy, but make no doubt about it—it’s an outstanding opportunity for us to accelerate faster than if we were on our own,” the executive says.
As domestic franchising deals begin to formulate, Butcher says Caribou is pleased enough with the Cabin prototype to likely make it the primary development tool, at least in the near future. Butcher describes the model as “very efficient and wicked fast,” and he believes the prototype satisfies many needs guests have expressed to the company, especially during the morning daypart.
The first five Cabin stores that opened in Q4 2019 saw average unit sales rise from $47,368 in January 2020 to $105,625 in December. For all of fiscal 2020, the handful of stores earned an AUV of $954,537, according to Caribou’s FDD.
The prototype has received high satisfaction scores from customers, and overwhelmingly positive feedback from employees.
“Importantly, our teams love working in the cabins,” Butcher says. “Typically our teams pass around an iPhone and create their own music playlists for the day. The tempo, the energy, is exceptionally high. It's just fun to go to a cabin, let alone to visit and get these outstanding products. You get to have outstanding experiences with our teams.”
Butcher says Cabin locations are usually in spots where “people are in cars and have a need for coffee,” which includes rural areas, interstates, and high-traffic suburbs. Most are freestanding, while one is endcap.