BigFoot Java Applies McDonald’s Principles to Coffee Industry

By Steve Dunkelberger, Paul Schrag & Kamilla K. McClelland
April 28, 2003

A paradigm shift in the coffee industry has been created by BigFoot Investment Group, comprised of Al Jiwani, CEO of Trimark Petroleum and David Morris, CEO of Dillanos Coffee Roasters. Trimark Petroleum is an experienced real estate and retail developer, while Dillanos’s expertise is specialty coffee and real estate.

“We aren’t just thinking outside the box here,” says Morris. “We are creating a whole new box.”

Their partnership – BigFoot Investment Group LLC, which is known to consumers as Bigfoot Java – is merging the uniformity of McDonald’s with the personality of roadside espresso stands. The objective is a regional – and perhaps one day even a national – network that assures the coffee beverage a motorist buys in Ashford, Washington will taste the same as one bought in Ashford, Oregon.

BigFoot’s Angie Wilson, an experienced barista, says the company does a good job of maintaining the balance between corporate standards and personal touches that make each of its outlets distinctive.

“BigFoot is definitely setting the standard,” she says.

The firm has plans for rapid expansion. It already has six 24-hour drive-thru coffee and espresso stands in Pierce and King counties, and nine more are due to be completed by the end of next year.

“Fifty-by-five” is their long-range slogan – they hope to have 50 BigFoot stands up and running by 2005.

Uniformity isn’t the only trick the partners picked up from McDonald’s. Under construction in Kent is BigFoot’s one-of-a-kind training facility.

Every barista hired by BigFoot will be trained in BigFoot’s take on Hamburger University. In this specialized facility, employees will learn to craft Mythical Mochas and Legendary Lattes along with other specialized drinks.

Once the training facility is completed, the partners plan to put the finishing touches on a franchise package that will require franchisees to maintain the same standards as company-owned outlets.

The BigFoot business formula may sound simple, says Jiwani, but the convenience, quality, atmosphere and consistency its designed to foster are sadly lacking in roadside coffee stands. Morris likens the current situation to hamburger stands in the pre-McDonald’s ‘50s – lots of choices, but little with little consistency in product or in quality.

“No one has taken drive-thrus to the professional level,” says Morris.

Most drive-thrus are owned and operated by individuals, he says. Many offer quality products, he continues, but a consistently good cup of coffee from one stand to the next is a hit-and-miss proposition.

“We want to raise the bar,” says Morris.

BigFoot has invested over $100,000 and countless hours in concept and design for their stores, says Morris. They’re big – 400 square feet versus the industry average of 100 to 200 square feet. They exhibit a neo-Northwest design incorporating wood siding and Northwest colors with neon trim. Each contains two espresso machines rather than the standard of one, which enables faster service from two drive-thru windows.

Menus feature a variety of specialty drinks – “Sasquatch Specialties” – including the Nutty Yeti, which includes spiced vanilla and hazelnut, and the Marionberry Mocha Monster with real marionberry flavor and shaved chocolate.
Its Littlefoot menu includes beverages such as juices for the pre-caffeine crowd.

BigFoot espresso, which is custom roasted by Dillanos, is designed to appeal to a range of tastes. It’s what Morris describes as “drink it all day coffee” – mild and without the bitterness often associated with espresso.

Business Examiner- April 28, 2003