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  • Writer's pictureChris Hatch

How to Find a Drive Thru Coffee Site

I spend a lot of my time in a car on the side of the road looking for the next drive thru site. A lot of these sites end up with a retailer selling coffee. Here are my thoughts on how to find a drive thru coffee site to develop.

MAPPING: Hire a mapping professional like Pitch My Package or other for-hire GIS specialists. Ask them to map out your local coffee competitors. List of competitors in our market that we include in our map:

Ask your GIS team to create you static (2D maps) as well as to upload them into a .kmz that you can open in Google Earth. Have them save the different data sets in layers so you can turn them on/off with your controls. Turn just the tenant you want to land on and search for holes between locations. Looking through the lens of various retailers specifically will help you see holes. When you can turn competition layers on/off it will provide you with an entirely different perspective. You can also bootstrap this step and do it yourself. There are lots of YouTube videos to help you learn how to do this process effectively.

IDENTIFYING AN OPPORTUNITY: A hole will be anywhere that the retailer you are looking for lacks coverage. As an example, In Salt Lake County (West Jordan City) SBUX has no stores on 7000 South from Bangerter Hwy to I-15. That is a 3.88 mile commuter road with no stores!

west jordan map

Once you have identified a hole then go sit at the major corners along that road from 8-9:30 am or 4:30-6:00 pm. Sitting at a corner for 10-15 minutes counting cars will teach you more about local traffic patterns than anything else. Most coffee users are AM heavy and looking for that morning commuter headed to work. There are a few such as Dutch Bros that seem to break that trend. But likely you are going to be hunting for AM side of the road sites.

SITE SELECTION: Now you have established a hole in the market, ideal stretch for your site to land in, and the busier side of the road in the morning. What's next? Narrowing down to actual sites. If you are not site selection minded or feel uncomfortable I would recommend finding a local broker. I typically use Tanner Olson & Joe Mills at Legend Partners. Your goal is to find a piece of land or an underutilized piece of real estate where you can scrape something and replace it with a store.

GETTING UNDER CONTRACT: Once you find a site get at least 120 days of Due Diligence time with two to three 30 day options built in to the contract. If the property needs a subdivision or zone change I would speak with your local city to get a timeline attached to those functions and build that in. The process is slow for many big name retailers and you don't want to be caught on the hook if your tenant backs out over anything.

PITCHING THE SITE: Now, get to work engaging with the retailer you are hoping to land on the site. I usually meet again with Pitch My Package (or a similar design team) and we typically provide a retailer with a pitch book (hard copy & pdf) and a drone of the site to show the traffic movement around the site. The book always gets used at some point internally for the retailer and drone footage helps with their internal approval processes.

Here is a pitch deck we used for a former Arby's we converted to a Starbucks in Livingston, MT. Here is an example of some drone footage for a ground up drive thru only we did for Starbucks in Lake Point, UT. You want to make these materials as easy to understand and informative as possible without being long winded. The approvals teams are looking at loads of sites and want to do as little initial research into a site so if you can do that work for them you've got a good chance of getting their attention on your site.

Sheridan Dutch Bros Exterior

Many of these larger chains have an individual whos' entire job is to search for and review submitted sites. They are often fairly easy to find contact info for or get a site in front of. Following the steps to finding a prime site for your target retailer and providing them with great research materials on the site will give you a huge leg up on other possible sites and help you land a great deal with a coffee tenant. Best of luck to you site hunters!

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