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From Esquires customers to franchise owners

New Esquires Coffee franchise owners Dale Smith and Clare Footes discuss their journey from loyal customers to franchise owners with one of the world’s fastest-growing coffee brands.

Esquires Coffee's newest franchise owners are already reaping the benefits of the company’s rock-solid franchise model. Former Construction Manager and Oil Consultant Dale Smith, and former NHS Nurse Clare Footes, became the new franchise owners of Esquires Coffee Durham in early October 2014, opening for trade in the beautiful heart of the town, and both are enjoying running their own business in a fantastic location.

Clare says: “You can’t help but be impressed by the location overlooking the river and historical sights of Durham. Dale and I are local to the area and had been customers of the store for years, due to the fantastic quality of the coffee. You could say we liked the coffee so much that we bought the business!”

The couple went from loyal customers to franchise owners after being consistently impressed with the overall experience offered by Esquires and the quality of its coffee. Now the franchise is in Dale and Clare’s hands, they are determined to drive this forward and further enhance the shop for their new customers.

Dale explains: “When we were looking for a franchise we signed up with a lot of business finders but didn’t really receive much luck. After searching the internet, Clare found that the Durham Esquires was for sale.

“Due to being customers of the store for years we saw the vision of what it could become in our hands and decided to give the head office a call to discuss the opportunity further.”

With the help of Esquires’ head office, the formerly corporate-owned Durham store was closed for a duration of three weeks and completely revamped, refitted and re-branded for its new management.

A growing brand

Like many prospective business owners, Dale and Clare sought the stability, support and loyal customer-base of an established brand to mitigate the risks of beginning a new venture independently. Just as attractive was the opportunity afforded by franchise ownership to spend more time together and embrace a new challenge – learning something completely unrelated to their previous occupations.

“We looked into lots of different business opportunities and franchising seemed like the best fit for us,” explains Dale. “We felt it would be quite isolating starting a business on our own, however with franchising you have that support team and years of experience to help you get going.”

As a franchise opportunity, Esquires stood out from the crowd for several reasons, including the thorough manner in which its assists its owners while giving them the space to do things their own way, and its commitment to Corporate Social Responsibility.

Clare explains: “When looking for a franchise we wanted to go with a company with a tried and tested business model, however we didn’t want to be with a company that would be too stifling. Esquires appealed to us due to the fantastic quality of its coffee and food offering. We also liked the brand’s ethical standpoint of supporting Fairtrade and charities such as Coffee Kids and Project Waterfall.”


The support structure in place was a key factor for the couple in making their decision. Extensive practical training was provided to give them a good idea of what to expect in terms of business processes when their own store opened, and useful product-knowledge was learnt, equipping them to effectively deal with customer enquiries.

Dale says: “As part of our training we spent two weeks with another franchisee in their store in Ambleside. Here we gained invaluable hands on experience on the running of an Esquires Coffee House, learning how to make coffee, managing stock, cost control and getting to know important hints and tips on cleaning etc. We also undertook till training with our EPOS provider and visited our coffee roastery in Glasgow, where we roasted our own coffee and did a cupping exercise.”

In the first week after opening, the pair were assisted in getting the store up and running smoothly, and now they have gained more experience, the Esquires team are still readily available to deal with any needs that may arise. “Our Area Manager was in-store to help us with the day-to-day running of the store for the first five days of trade. This helped us with learning how to merchandise food items manage staff levels. The Managing Director, Doug, is always there to lend an ear if we have any issues or need advice on something,” says Clare.

Future plans

While it is still early days, Dale is confident that if they keep up the good work and continue to hit their daily goals, he and Clare will be well on track not only to meet their business plan goals, but also to be in a position to expand the venture.

“We ultimately wish to grow the business,” he says. “We are starting this through increasing our opening hours and offering outside catering to increase sales even further.”

With ambitious Esquires looking to increase its global footprint to at least 800 stores by 2020, there are opportunities aplenty for others to follow Dale and Clare into ownership, forging their own successful new venture in a thriving UK coffee market, already worth more than £6.2 billion.

For Dale and Clare, Esquires is the ideal brand to do it with, and those who are willing to work hard will find it to be a wise choice. “We can’t rate the Esquires brand highly enough and have already recommended it to others who are looking to start a franchise,” they comment.

Dale concludes: “An Esquires franchisee must be forward-thinking and have high energy. They should be open minded and committed to working in a fast-paced environment. It’s great coming to work every day and feeling a real sense of achievement in what we’re doing. Running the store is stimulating and is a great way to release our energy and drive. We love being able to spend more time together and getting to meet new people every day, as well as being part of a lovely team.”