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Chat over coffee with Mike Butler

Coffee is one of the world’s most favorite beverage. Very few have understood the details that go into good quality coffee beans, roasting and brewing. Some might even agree that great ideas start over a great coffee. In that spirit, we want to share with you our chat over coffee with Mike Butler – Managing Director, Samira Maatouk Group.

In this interview, he shares his great ideas about coffee franchise Maison Samira Maatouk.

Maison Samira Maatouk was opened by Samira Maatouk. Who was the daughter of Mahmoud Maatouk, a pioneering coffee enthusiast.

1. How did you enter in the franchise business?

I started working in franchising in Kuwait. I was managing the marketing for multiple international franchised F&B brands across the Gulf, from a franchisee perspective. Later I took an existing UAE F&B brand to overseas franchising, prior to joining Samira Maatouk Group.

2. Where and how did the idea of your concept come from?

The original concept of the brand comes from Beirut, Lebanon where our owner’s father set up his first coffee shop. The idea being that customers can personalize their own coffee blend, to drink-in or prepare at home.

The current iteration of the brand takes that heritage to the next level via two concepts targeted at different segments. One is a standalone luxury concept called Maison Samira Maatouk, the other is a store-in-store concept for food retailers called Samira Maatouk Originale.

3. What inspired the brand name?

Our two brand names, Maison Samira Maatouk and Samira Maatouk Originale, both contain our owner’s name: but are different brand propositions. Likewise, french is used in both as our owner was French-educated in Lebanon.

For instance, the ‘Maison’ or ‘House’ of Samira Maatouk showcases the finest elements of the brand in a luxurious environment. Many of the elements have been designed by Samira herself and it is very experiential.

Similarly, the ‘Originale’ or ‘Original’ Samira Maatouk is an updated version of the first concept launched by Samira’s father over 70 years ago.

4. What is the story behind the brand’s icon?

The Maison Samira Maatouk brand icon has multiple components. For example, there are two ‘Ms’ (one as a reflection of the other), with a stylized ‘S’ connecting the two. The design also represented two intertwined coffee beans.

5. What makes your brand different from your competitors?

Our brand essence is offering customers the ability to personalize their own blend of coffee. Whether is darker, lighter, with cardamom, finely ground, coarsely ground, Arabic style, Turkish style, filter, espresso: we do it all! We use the finest coffee beans from around the world and roast them ourselves in Abu Dhabi. The brand has 70 years of heritage and that know-how means that we can give our customers the best coffee experience in our outlets or in their homes. Our coffee is accompanied by luxury food items for customers to enjoy a complete F&B experience.

6. What are the essential qualities that you look for in a franchisee?

Passion for excellence in F&B is paramount for us. Providing customers with the best brand experience will enable all stakeholders to share in the success. Ideally, our franchisees would already be operating franchised F&B outlets and are looking to add coffee to their portfolio.

We like entrepreneurial businesses who can make quick decisions and act as true partners to grow our brands.

7. How long does it take, in an average, for your franchisee to realize their investment?

We work on an 18-month payback for our Samira Maatouk Originale outlets and a 24-month payback for our Maison Samira Maatouk outlets.

8. What was the major challenge you faced in your career, and how did you overcome it?

It’s a current example, but the Covid-19 situation is as tough a challenge as I have come across in 20+ years of working. Pulling together as a team, working closely with our partners and ensuring that our products are available for our customers, whilst maintaining health and safety are our key focuses.

9. How does your business day start?

It starts at 5:30 AM when I grab some breakfast and check emails before doing some exercise. I have an hour’s drive to work, so arrive at the office about 8:30 AM. At this point, I decide what I want to achieve that day (over a great cup of coffee!) and then start work with the team.

10. What was your best moment throughout your franchise career?

Signing franchise deals give me the most pleasure and I have been fortunate to have done that on a number of occasions.

11. Where do you see your brand in the next 5 years?

Our brands will grow within the GCC and wider Middle East over the next year or so. Within 5 years, we envisage breaking into the USA, continental Europe and the more developed markets in Asia.

12. Any tips you want to impart to our readers who want to be in the franchise industry?

Understand the DNA of your brand, what makes it different and how can it be better than the competition. Make sure that the customer experience is excellent every time.

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