10 Coffee Franchises to Challenge Starbucks

coffee franchises

The coffee retail industry has grown in the past five years. The industry currently boasts about $28 billion dollars in annual revenue, and consists of nearly 200,000 different businesses.

For those looking to break into this industry, starting a business from scratch can be tough, thanks to competition from large coffee chains. But the industry leader, Starbucks, doesn’t offer franchise opportunities in the U.S.

Luckily though, there are plenty of other coffee chains out there that offer franchise opportunities. Below is a list of ten top retail coffee franchises offering Starbucks potential competition.

Coffee Franchises

Scooter’s Coffee

coffee franchises

Currently located in 10 states with about 120 stores, Scooter’s Coffee offers a few different franchise options. For those who want to break into the coffee industry with a smaller investment, the company offers drive-thru coffee kiosks. But more experienced or dedicated franchisers might opt for drive-thru CoffeeHouses instead.

The company has been around since 1998 and franchising since 2001. S,o there’s also some name recognition in the states and communities where Scooter’s Coffee franchises are already located.

Dunkin’ Donuts

coffee franchises

Dunkin’ Donuts is one of the most recognizable names in the coffee industry and happens to also be one of the most profitable franchises. The company offers a variety of opportunities in different markets around the country. There’s even the opportunity to open combo franchises, which include both Dunkin’ Donuts and Baskin Robbins.

Maui Wowi

coffee franchises

If you’re interested in adding a bit of a tropical feel to your coffee franchise, Maui Wowi might be the choice for you. The coffee chain also specializes in smoothies. And the business prides itself on creating an “Ohana” or family, among its franchisees. So franchisees are encouraged to provide help and support to one another throughout the process.

Biggby Coffee

coffee franchises

Biggby is a younger company, but that means there are plenty of opportunities available all over the country. The coffee chain currently has over 100 franchises throughout the U.S. So it’s one of the fastest growing coffee franchises in the industry.

Biggby also prides itself on its company culture. So if you want to open a coffee shop with a fun environment and some innovative products, this one could be worth your consideration.

Dunn Brothers Coffee

coffee franchises

This coffee chain prides itself on providing specialty coffee products. Each shop actually roasts coffee in front of its customers. And they also provide some pastries and baked goods for purchase. Dunn Brothers Coffee offers full coffee shop franchises as well as express shops.

And the company has been in business since 1987. So the company has built up a support staff to help franchisees with everything from product development and construction to finance and marketing.

The Coffee Beanery

coffee franchises

The first Coffee Beanery stores opened in the U.S. in 1976. And the company has built up a fair amount of brand recognition over the years. Currently, The Coffee Beanery offers franchise opportunities in the U.S. and abroad. It also offers the option of opening multiple stores in a given area, along with one-store franchise options.

Gloria Jean’s Coffee

coffee franchises

With more than 900 franchise locations worldwide, Gloria Jean’s is one of the largest coffee chains in the industry. The company puts a big emphasis on location. So if you’re interested in starting a coffee shop in a street-front neighborhood center or the entrance of a mall or college campus, this opportunity could be of interest.

The Human Bean

coffee franchises

The main thing that sets The Human Bean’s franchise opportunities apart from others in the industry is that the company does not charge any percentage-of-sales royalty or marketing fees. Franchisees simply order their coffee and other supplies from the company, which is how it makes its money. The company also works with franchisees to come up with the best layout, location, and business plan for each store.


coffee franchises

If you’re looking to dip your toe into the coffee industry without making a sizable investment, Cafe2u offers a mobile coffee shop option that’s fairly inexpensive up front. The Australian-based company now has hundreds of franchisees worldwide. Its coffee shops are run out of vans so franchisees can sell coffee at colleges, fairs and other events.


coffee franchises

The largest coffee chain in South Korea, Caffebene now has over 1,600 stores globally. The company provides training and support for coffee enthusiasts who are looking to become part of the growing, global brand.

Dunkin’ Donuts Photo via Shutterstock

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Annie Pilon Annie Pilon is a Senior Staff Writer for Small Business Trends, covering entrepreneur profiles, interviews, feature stories, community news and in-depth, expert-based guides. When she’s not writing she can be found exploring all that her home state of Michigan has to offer.

25 Reactions
  1. I find the entire coffee industry just mind boggling. First, that people are willing to spend so much on something that isn’t even a full meal. Second, that there are obviously so many people willing to do so. Just insane to me!

  2. Robert, I am loyal to Scooters! It does cost a lot of money to keep up the coffee habit BUT that $5.00 coffee each morning is my full breakfast! If i were to go to McDonald’s or Sonic i would spend more than $5.00 on a meal. To each his own…..lol fortunately mine is my coffee!! 🙂

  3. The key to any successful business is customer service..The most successful coffee shops place an emphasis on that attribute as well as providing a great product. I go where I’m treated right and welcomed with a smile. That is the value I’m looking for.
    There is room for people to enter the industry even as an independent if they have that type of character. Easy to train skill sets in a coffee shop owner hard to train character . I work with Hard Bean Cafe and help people open “Specialty “coffee shops .

    • Barney – Where are you located? How much do you charge to help someone open up a successful specialty coffee shop?


      • Hey Ray if you’re interested in opening a coffee shop. Give me a call Charlie 804 – 661 – 5404

    • Barney,
      I’m one of those special character cases (I’m proud of it, its a reflection of my bringing up) and own a drive-thru coffee business in Southern Minnesota, which I anticipated opening another 2-3, but recent personal complications forces me to sell business right away. Hoping karma is on my side, I’m making communications with any resource I can embrace. Might you have any contacts that would be interested in such an endeavor? I hired a “like kind” service to council me for this start up and at first thought they were fantastic, but hind site says improvements definitely were in order. Would you be looking for additional help in other various locations? Appreciate any feedback.

    • Ansel Niederheitmann

      I want to open a speciality café ! Coludidos you help me?

  4. Sir/madam I worked in Starbucks as barista for one year plus..now I m back in my country I thought of starting coffee shop but bcoz of lack of budget I couldn’t start my business ,so whoever interested to invest in my business ..u r most welcome ..I m from country call Bhutan

  5. I am considering opening a coffee shop/coffee cafe. I have researched many franchises over the last few years, and some that offer licenses (no royalty or franchise fees). Drive-thru is a must, and I am looking at both sit down models and strickly drive-thrus. I am currently in contact with Barney of The Hard Bean, and also looking at The Human Bean, Mudslingers, Biggbys, and Seattle’s Best. I am open to hearing and learning of a few others. I plan to be able to make a decision by the end of February (2017). I would appreciate hearing from anyone who is currently going through this process, or has recently gone through this process. Would like to hear the good and the bad. The Do’s and the Don’ts. The pros and the cons. I feel that there are still one or two brands that I have not yet heard of that may be suitable options. Thank you all in advance for your feedback.

    • Hey Kevin T. I have t 2+ acres of prime real estate. The location is ideal since it is located on a soon to be completed 4 lane highway (Oct 2017). Also this location is surrounded by 75,000-100,000 residents within several residential communities.
      This highway is the major access route for morning and evening traffic. Furthermore the location will accommodate a drive-thur and/or drive thur with customer accommodations.
      I have the land and will assist in all the due diligence of obtaining permits and contractors. Willing to share in profits with the right partner. Please contact me if you have interest.

      • Hello Kevin T. my boss owns a piece of property located on a major street with direct access to the beach on a corner lot. It is approximately 1 mile from the beach and a very desirable neighborhood. He is looking to lease the land or do a co-venture with someone. He is also considering opening a coffee shop and has done some research into some of the same franchises you mention. We would like to speak with you to see how things worked out and how you went about making your decision on what to do. Please contact me to discuss in further detail.

    • What coffee business did you end up going with?

      • Hello Wendy. I have not yet opened a coffee shop. Have not decided on which one I want to invest in. Living in Prescott Valley, AZ.

    • Thinking about getting into the coffee business. Did you open in Jan. and tell us about your experience

  6. I am going through as similar process. I have looked into “bad ass” which is a Hawaiian based comapany that serves premium coffee. Suposidly there coffee is amazing and very high quality . At first I was truned off by the name but later learned that It actually has a sustainable market recogition. The “Dutch Bros” franchise has been very successful in Nor Cal, but requires one to work at the stores for at least a year. From what I can determine so far is that location, quality of product and customer servcie are key requirments for a succesful business. I am currently looking into Human Bean as I am intrigued by their lack of franchise fees.

    • Dutch Bros is overrated. Nothing but sugar drinks, below average coffee. The requirements are lame, but they do what they want. I looked at them as a franchise. Plenty of money for multiple stores, but getting family members hired is a crap shot. They would have to kill too many brain cells. Human Bean is a good option. Java detour.

  7. Suzanne Jeanne Hess

    I am also looking to open a coffee shop. I do not know if I should go with a drive through, stationary coffee shop or a sit down coffee cafe. Money would be a big decision maker. I am on a large lake that does not have a coffee shop and people mention all the time it is what we need.
    I would love some advice on which way to go.

  8. Cabin Coffee is the best I have ever gone to!

  9. Is there any investor’s that help with the financing and how does it work. I want to open a coffee shop that will be comfy to read books, wi-fi and a small private conference room for meetings. Any advise?

  10. Dunkin’ Donuts dropped the ‘Donuts’ from its name, but it will always be dunkin’ donuts to me.

  11. Cabin Coffee is the best I have ever gone to!

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