The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf announces expansion plans for Sri Lanka

Friday, 31 January 2014 00:00 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

By Sarah Hannan For the past five decades The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf has upheld its vision to be simply the best and being the oldest specialty coffee brand in the world, the establishment stands at second place in global market leadership. The brand has over 1000 stores worldwide and Sri Lanka winning the franchise in 2007 under the management of International Brands Ceylon Ltd. has setup three stores: The flagship store at Maitland Crescent, Colombo 07; the Fort outlet in the World Trade Centre and the Airport Outlet at Bandaranaike International Airport departures lounge. In 2010 a Singapore based diversified holding company known as The Calamander Group Inc. bought 50% of the franchise. By 2012 International Brands Ceylon Ltd. became a wholly owned subsidiary of the group. With the full force of The Calamander Group, Inc. coming in to play a total revamp and the rapid expansion of the network footprint has been laid out. With an investment of Rs. 30 million the first phase of expansion commenced on Monday 27 January with the revamp of the flagship store in Maitland Crescent. By 2017 the group plans to setup 20 The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf distribution points across Sri Lanka out of which six new stores would be setup by the end of 2014. The Phase I location expansion plans covers the core Colombo central zone and the most popular upper middle class suburbs. These are: Bambalapitiya, Racecourse, and Colpetty in Colombo Central; Rajagiriya, Wattala and Mount Lavinia in the city’s affluent suburbs. Other locations targeted are major new shopping malls, and selective co-locations with other major brand name retailers. Regional expansion locations planned include Kandy, Kurunegala, Galle, and Gampaha. Facelift in progress Speaking at a media briefing held recently at Maitland Crescent, Calamander Group Managing Director Roman Scott stated: “Since acquiring the franchise we have only progressed at half the speed. By now we should ideally have at least 10 stores but it is sad to note that with the development of road connectivity and mixed development projects coming up in Sri Lanka the allocation of retail space are not equally matched. However we are starting off with the revamp of this premises and the store will add a 60% space growing from 2500 square metres to 3500 square metres. “All our stores will be designed by renowned Philip Weeraratne Associates and the Maitland Crescent Store will be equipped with a viewing box style balcony and the present lounge area upstairs will be converted in to a southern Californian-style lounge bar complete with a library and an entertainment area furnished with a TV. During the time of the revamp the store will function in its full capacity but will move in to a mini-mobile service station in April with limited items served from the menu while the ground floor is redesigned. The construction should be completed by early May and will reopen to the public by end of May 2014.” Further elaborating on the group’s future plans Scott stated that the market is showing levels of escalation and the country is progressing fast. Along with it The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf aims to set trends in the market not only through expansion but also through maintaining standards where customers would recognise the service excellence. In keeping with the franchise’s core values customers at any time are allowed to know the source of the ingredients that are put in to the food and beverages prepared at the store. Unlike some of the food outlets The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf runs its kitchen in a centralised atmosphere with excellent hygiene standards and customers can walk in to the facility at any moment to confirm the standards. Man behind the baked goodies Executive Chef Athula Mudaligama with a team of nine manages the kitchen operations for The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf. Chef Athula has been working with the franchise since its inception and has trained over 12 Patisserie Chefs at The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf. He acknowledges the assistance received from Chaminda Rathnayake the Pastry Chef who also joined the franchise during its inception. With over 18 years of experience in the F&B sector Chef Athula had commenced his journey in the industry after enrolling in hotel school. He joined Holiday Inn on 31 December 1995 and served there for two years. The next opportunity opened up at Deli Market managed by Hilton Colombo and Chef Athula had worked there for 10 years where he honed his skills in pastry under the guidance and training received from a Belgian Chef. As a child, Chef Athula had never dreamt of pursuing a career related to F&B since his father and brothers all served in the armed forces. As a school leaver he had applied to become a cadet officer but his mother was not happy with his decision given the situation in the country at the time. Chef Athula’s destiny changed when his brother-in-law who was a Chef had encouraged him to enrol in a hotel school. Since then there has been no turning around for him and cooking has become his passion and hobby. Scott emphasised on the great determination, talent, loyalty and humility of the team to provide customers with quality indulgence since the inception of the Maitland Crescent outlet. In the coming months the management has also thought of allowing the customers to sign up for a tour of the kitchen and watch patisserie chefs at work to get an idea of the operations. “Chef Athula’s speciality is cakes and he has 67 recipes but unfortunately we cannot accommodate all these at the same time. I am looking at opening his talent by allowing cookery demonstration to our customers every quarter or so,” Scott added.