Caribou Coffee, the Minneapolis-based specialty beverage concept, is doubling down on its investment in franchisees with a technology revamp. The brand turned to FranConnect for an innovative, high-tech franchise management solution that connects corporate employees to Caribou’s vast franchise network spanning more than 40 states and nine countries outside the U.S.

“We have a very sophisticated infrastructure for our total company, which includes our franchised and licensed businesses, as well as our company-operated stores, but there were a few gaps that we needed to consider a solution to help us with,” says Darren Miles, senior director of operations at Caribou Coffee. “The key gaps were that we didn't have an intranet way of communicating with our licensees and franchisees.”

Miles says the brand’s main goal in searching for a supplemental infrastructure was to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of corporate’s communication as a franchisor. With the Franchise Operations and Franchise Intranet tools from FranConnect, Caribou is able to provide a centralized, private communication hub, he says, allowing corporate employees to also better engage with potential franchisees. FranConnect’s other industry clients include Krispy Kreme, Firehouse Subs, Krystal Burgers, and more.

“The franchise intranet is both for corporate and for franchisees,” says Keith Gerson, FranConnect’s president of global operations. “It's basically one voice, one system, one process for ensuring that there is an alignment between the goals and objectives of the franchisees and the franchisor.”

Gerson adds that FranConnect’s system also gives clients a central location to store and search existing brand materials like marketing packages, operations manuals, and more. One of the differentiated features of FranConnect’s system is a social media–style product known as FranBuzz that gives franchisees a forum to discuss best practices and develop brand-building ideas, Gerson says.

Caribou also employs FranConnect’s Financial Data Collection and Dashboards tool to analyze and create comparative reports of performance.

“Caribou is going to have the means to pull the financial data and present it back to the franchisees in such a way that they're able to benchmark their performance against other people,” Gerson says. “It's also there to help drive higher performance and productivity.”

Miles says feedback from franchisees is positive thus far, though it’s still a learning process. “One of the things we continue to try and get better at is the communication with our franchisees who are outside the U.S.,” he says. “It'll be interesting seeing how well the systems that FranConnect provides work overseas, but the early indicators are good.”

Caribou will continue to seek growth opportunities at a smart and appropriate pace, Miles says, and FranConnect will be able to grow with the brand.

“On a year-over-year basis, nearly 70 percent of our clients grew or expanded the use of our operating system in their company,” Gerson says. “We're as small as you need us to be when you get started, but you can't outgrow us.”

By Tamara Omazic

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