This Rapidly Expanding Coffee Franchise Doesn’t Charge Royalties

    The unique brand has 149 locations open—and about 175 more on the way.
    The Human Bean

    Akash Hira was a young professional in Lexington, Kentucky, and he had a problem. Every time he went to grab coffee with coworkers during his lunch break, the line at Starbucks would be out the door. He couldn’t believe there wasn’t another option within a few blocks.

    Faced with such a problem, Hira did something that, it’s safe to say, very few other people would do. He started researching coffee franchises. After all, franchising ran in his blood—his parents and aunts and uncles were franchisees in the hospitality space while Hira was growing up. 

    Hira’s research into coffee franchises led him to The Human Bean, a drive-thru coffee concept based in Medford, Oregon. He liked what he saw from the very start. First off, the brand charged no royalty fees—that’s something sure to catch any aspiring franchisee’s eye. The brand also had strong financials, and Hira saw a lot of potential in a brand that touts a 30-second drive-thru window times at its highest-volume locations.

    “We didn’t have a drive-thru-only coffee brand in Lexington,” Hira. “And when I was looking at all of these other brands, it was obvious that the drive thru was the main driver of revenue, so it made a ton of sense to me to cut all of that other stuff out and just focus on great coffee and food, and excellent customer service. It’s easy to make customers happy when you can execute on those things.” 

    Hira ended up opening his The Human Bean location in Lexington, Kentucky, in June 2019. It was an immediate hit in the area. Consumers loved the quality, signature coffee served out of the drive-thru window. They loved the food that went along with the coffee—this is another key differentiating factor for The Human Bean, as food sales have increased 130 percent in the past two years. 

    Consumers in Lexington were also soon the beneficiaries of The Human Bean’s investment in technology. In 2022, 41 percent of all transactions for The Human Bean were connected to its loyalty app. 

    For many of these reasons, Hira ended up signing on to open up other stores in the Lexington metro area. One is scheduled to open soon, while The Human Brand is helping him scout other potential locations—that’s another area where Hira praises the brand. He says the franchisee support has been outstanding since he started with The Human Bean. 

    “I came in with a little more experience than the average first-time franchisee because of my family’s history,” Hira says. “But I really didn’t know much about coffee. The entire franchisee support team came out and opened the store with me and helped me troubleshoot once I was open as well. My field rep, Kim, she is available by phone, text—anything. Also, we’re a small but growing brand.”

    This type of network is what now-CEO Dan Hawkins, his wife, Rhonda, and their friends Tom and Tami Casey, envisioned when they began franchising the brand in 2002, just four years after The Human Bean had opened its first store in Medford, Oregon. The brand’s foundational goal was to brew exceptional coffee and deliver a top-notch customer experience. Once they decided to franchise, they knew that delivering that experience at scale would start from the top down—The Human Bean’s entire support center prides itself on a personal touch to the franchisor-franchisee relationship. 

    “One of the areas that our team really shines is how dedicated we are to franchisee support,” Hawkins says. “Part of that comes from the experiences we have gained since inception-when you launch a brand and operate stores before you start franchising, you learn a lot along the way. It’s nice that we can provide a couple decades worth of expertise in this industry that we love so much.” 

    The Human Bean is now seeking franchisees who, like Hira, have a passion for serving coffee and smiles to the local community. They are open to deals with people just about anywhere in the U.S., and believe they can make a successful franchisee out of all different types of candidates. Hira’s success is a testament to that. 

    “So much of our brand is about empowering people,” Hawkins says. “When we have a guest come to visit us, we want to send them away not only energized from a great beverage or food offering, but we also want them to be smiling about that transaction and the customer service they received. We try to give that same energy to our franchisees. I'm very proud of our team. It's just amazing how dedicated and passionate everyone here is to helping our franchisees be successful."

    For more information on franchising with The Human Bean, visit the brand’s franchising page