Chad Gretzema took the helm as CEO of Beans & Brews Coffeehouse in October of last year, bringing leadership experience from his time at Del Taco and the Einstein Noah Restaurant Group to the coffee chain. Known for his strategic innovation and focus on helping franchisees grow, Gretzema is ready to steer Beans & Brews as it pursues nationwide expansion.

Beans & Brews opened its doors in Salt Lake City in 1993 and has carved out a niche in the coffee industry by serving small-batch, high-altitude craft roasted coffee, specialty beverages and oven-toasted sandwiches with a welcoming vibe. The chain’s distinctive approach to coffee roasting and community atmosphere has garnered a fanatical customer base, primarily in Utah throughout the mountain west.

Under Gretzema’s leadership, the brand is accelerating its expansion strategy. With 78 locations across four states and development deals secured to double that unit count, Beans & Brews is set to bring its differentiated beverages to new states and neighborhoods.

1. What is your vision for Beans & Brews under your leadership, and how does the expansion strategy fit into this vision?

The brand has a tremendous following in our existing markets that is rooted in this magical combination of our distinctive beverages and the daily connections we make with our guests. My goal is to build on that success with breakthrough menu innovation, making it easier for our teams and embracing the importance of convenience in our guest’s daily routine. We have seen tremendous demand from potential franchisees in our model that offers multiple store types from in-line locations to drive-thru only sites.

2. How many new locations are planned, and over what timeframe?

We’re planning to open around 20 new stores this year, with commitments for about 80 more from franchisees in the coming years. Our expansion includes entering new markets like Houston, San Antonio, Dallas, Denver, and Albuquerque, and St. Louis, where we are already hearing excitement from the communities about our arrival.

3. What criteria are being used to select new locations for expansion, and how does this reflect the brand’s target demographic?

Our expansion focuses on the Western and Southwestern U.S., with growing interest from Midwestern states. We work shoulder to shoulder with our franchisees to find sites in vibrant neighborhoods typically on the “going to work” side of the street providing convenience for folks on their way to work. We have a very diverse base of guests, ranging from high school students grabbing one of our signature energy drinks (with the energy from beans of course) to working adults who are fueling their day with a Caramel Cielo.

4. The coffee segment is highly competitive. What aspects of Beans & Brews do you believe set it apart from other coffee chains?

Our small-batch, high-altitude roasted coffee forms the cornerstone of our brand. The fanatical approach we take in crafting our coffee carries over into our other products—from mixing our energy drinks to oven warming our assembled-by-hand breakfast sandwiches. That attention to detail and quality really stands out in a landscape of competitors. For many guests, their visit for a drink is their only indulgence for the day and we believe that a specialty drink should be, well, special. 

5. How do you think your experience at Del Taco and Einstein will help you turn Beans & Brews into a nationwide brand?

I am a huge believer in collaboration. The best innovation and execution arises when there is a true partnership and open dialogue between franchisees, restaurant operators and the support team. We have already started to increase the conversation across prioritizing areas to help us grow. Additionally, we are strengthening our support structure with experienced partners whose experience in product development, operational optimization and supporting our supply chain will help us move farther and faster as a brand.

6. What do you see as the biggest challenges and opportunities facing Beans & Brews’ growth, and how do you plan to address them?

For every brand that is accelerating growth the biggest challenges are setting new stores and franchisees up for success and maintaining brand consistency. We are rapidly testing and learning on every new store opening that is resulting in a really strong playbook for both operations and marketing. We are finding better ways to communicate and deliver on our brand’s distinctiveness as we introduce ourselves to new guests.

7. How do you plan to enhance the customer experience in both existing and new Beans & Brews locations to attract and retain customers?

We’ve embarked on a brand refresh that will touch every aspect of the brand, from new signature drinks and elevated baked goods to contemporary store designs. As part of that effort, we are engaging our teams to help us identify challenges and obstacles to serving our guests and have a roadmap of operational improvements we are implementing as a result.

8. In what ways is Beans & Brews leveraging technology and digital platforms to support its expansion and improve operational efficiency?

We’re using technology to enhance guest experiences, with an updated app for easier online ordering and redeeming loyalty points, implementing operational procedures to make sure our hot drinks are as hot as possible for delivery and digital marketing segmentation to provide personalized offers to our guests. For our teams, we’re streamlining our digital order processes to ensure accuracy and redesigning our training program that will begin to incorporate digital micro-learning, reaching our employee base in the way they consume information today.

9. Looking beyond the current expansion plan, what is your long-term vision for Beans & Brews? How do you see the brand evolving in the next five to 10 years?

Over the next five to 10 years, I see Beans & Brews carving out a distinctive place in the market, combining the best of a local coffee shop with the innovation and efficiency of a larger chain. I believe our unique positioning, rooted in our craft-roasted products and personal connection, will stand out as a place where specialty beverages are truly special.

Beverage, Fast Casual, Franchising, Story