Artigiano Coffee Discusses Canadian Store Expansion Plans Following Successful Rebranding [Interview]

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After completing a recent rebrand of its coffee shop concept, Artigiano is poised for expansion in the Vancouver area and beyond.

“Today we’re very much in the Lower Mainland and we’re pushing our way out into the Valley in the Lower Mainland now quite aggressively,” said Dean Shillington, President of Artigiano. “And we have two locations in Calgary.

Dean Shillington

“I got involved in around 2019. I bought the business outright. The plan was to rebrand the business and to flip the model from a corporately-owned model that was becoming more and more difficult to run from a labour standpoint and we flipped it to a franchise model that we’re on now.

“With that model we have very robust expansion plans. We plan to continue a very aggressive expansion through the Lower Mainland. We’re on the Island now in the Nanaimo BC Ferries Terminal and in Langford. So we’re going to expand on the Island. We’re to expand and start focusing on Alberta and then the plan is to go south.”

Image: Artigiano
Image: Artigiano

The brand has been around since the late 1990s in Vancouver when it was started by a couple of Italian brothers as Caffe Artigiano. A new concept of coffee was introduced to the Lower Mainland with the skills of Latte Art, a new cafe ambiance and a new European style of drinking coffee.

It was an immediate hit with lineups of people wanting to experience the brand. 

Today, there are 18 locations with two more openings in the near future. There are also three licensees – two are in local grocery store Stongs and one at a golf course.

Sitings Realty Ltd. has been working with Artigiano for its real estate needs.

Image: Artigiano

Sarah Brown, Senior Vice-President of Artigiano, said the newest locations will open in Langley and then one on Robson Street in Vancouver in front of BC Place where all the sports take place. 

Sarah Brown

“As much as the business had its challenges through the 2010 to 2017 period, the business has always been known for having among the best coffee in the space,” said Shillington. “Once we were able to master our system and regroup and recalibrate everything at this point it’s about duplication of a good franchise model and a good training model.

“It’s really easy for us to go and create a formula now that we can go expand and take advantage of that. Where the pitfalls were in the previous owner is they went down East and they tried to go aggressively into Toronto. I lived there for a time. I spent a lot of time there. It’s a very corporate environment, very Starbucks, Tim Hortons, kind of mentality environment and they didn’t go in with anything unique for an offering. 

“So rather than do the typical Canadian thing and go East our plan is to stick more with the West Coast vibe and the quality, the art, the craft, the artisan side of our brand and go south which is a little bit more aligned geographically.”

Artigiano at 429 Howe Street in Vancouver (Image: Lee Rivett)
Artigiano at 429 Howe Street in Vancouver (Image: Lee Rivett)

Some of the existing locations still have Caffe Artigiano signage but they will be changed as the company is in the process of rebranding select locations, said Brown. 

“A lot of businesses in this hospitality space are finding it increasingly challenging for labour,” said Shillington. “And really through the pandemic, it offered us an opportunity to completely reset the model. And as a business trying to expand, just the churning of the labour you typically find in hospitality and coffee made it really difficult to deliver a superior experience consistently among a lot of locations.

“So when you bring in a local partner, our experience is a local partner can go and run one of our cafes significantly better than the dedicated manager which means they can make a lot more money than we can and it creates a more consistent experience. And for us the most important thing is for someone that goes and sees us on the Island or downtown or in Langley they’ll have the consistent experience and want to come more and more.”

Shillington said cafe sizes range depending on the location. The company is considering smaller kiosk locations in high traffic areas such as around transit and office buildings of about 500 square feet. The strike zone for a typical location is between 900 and 1,600 square feet with a big patio component.

caffeartigiano.com

Traditionally with the brand the focus was downtown locations but Shillington said it will now look at not only key downtown locations but also in active communities.

“We’re a high quality option in the coffee space but you need lots of traffic in order to do it. We do love the more marquis locations. One of our best locations is a place called Shipyards in Vancouver where you sit there and you see downtown Vancouver,” said Shillington. “It’s an iconic spot to sit and have a cup of coffee.

“Those are the areas that get us really excited. Otherwise it’s high traffic. It’s around transit, it’s around offices and communities.”

Brown said product development has been part of its strategy in the past couple of  years in figuring out what consumers want beyond just coffee – at the right price point.

“We’re doing everything from the traditional pastries that you would see in a cafe, croissant offerings, muffins, and we have a small lunch offering and a pretty great breakfast offering,” she said. “We’re also developing a grab and go program for those folks that need something a little faster. Then we’ve also started licensing some of our locations where it makes sense and where we feel we’re in a market that there’s an appetite for folks who want to come at the end of a work day and have a beverage. We’re offering a very competitive Happy Hour program as well as beer, wine and cocktails in some of our locations.”

The Espresso Martini will be a signature drink.

Mario Toneguzzi
Mario Toneguzzi
Mario Toneguzzi, based in Calgary, has more than 40 years experience as a daily newspaper writer, columnist, and editor. He worked for 35 years at the Calgary Herald covering sports, crime, politics, health, faith, city and breaking news, and business. He is the Senior News Editor with Retail Insider in addition to working as a freelance writer and consultant in communications and media relations/training. Mario was named as a RETHINK Retail Top Retail Expert in 2024.

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