From a small shop opened in 2015 in central Bucharest, seasoned entrepreneur Radu Savopol built from scratch a new brand under the “to go” concept, selling coffee for 5 RON a piece, which is little over one euro. The start-up has now become the largest chain of coffee shops in Eastern Europe.
Savopol created 5 To Go together with Lucian Badila after realizing that Romania’s market was missing the “to go” model.
After the launch of the first store that had 12 square meters and required an investment of EUR 10,000, Savopol build a network of coffee shops that count 80 locations at present. He tells BR that by the end of the year, 5 To Go will reach 110 locations.
The entrepreneur says a major challenge in developing the business has been to make sure that the coffee you consume in any of the shops tastes the same.
“The biggest challenge has been to create and implement standards regarding the quality of the products no matter the location in which you consume 5 To Go coffee, and this was a challenge, that was ‘self-imposed’, sort of to say because we started from the premise that a sine qua non factor of any business is to respect any customer and to offer the same quality no matter the area or the city. We can’t say that we have achieved this 100 percent, to standardize the products, but this is an element for which we are working constantly and uninterrupted,” says Savopol.
In the meantime, 5 To Go posted a turnover of EUR 2.8 million in 2017, more than double compared to the previous year. Investments planned for this year hover between EUR 650,000 and EUR 800,000.
The coffee chain moved to diversify its offering and started selling more expensive products in bigger sizes. This decision seems to have paid off already.
“The development of the concept BIGGER is BETTER brought added value to the business of 10.7 percent growth (average for location). The range comprises coffee-based beverages, with a size double compared to the standard one (double cappuccino, double hot chocolate e.n.) or pastry products with premium ingredients. All these have a price of RON 5 + 5,” says the entrepreneur.
The future plans are quite straightforward. Savopol want 5 To Go to continue its expansion drive and get even closer to the customers. This is done through the creation of new concepts such as 5 To Go coffee spot, 5 To Go mobile division and 5 To Go metrou. This would help the coffee chain get closer to customers that are “on the go” and need a quick coffee, either when taking the subway to work or in the lunch break at the office.
“Our estimate is that as a result of our development we will reach 25,000 daily customers by the end of the year,” says the owner.
Savopol got in the entrepreneurship ring in 2001 when he opened a pub called Old Nick in the mountainous city of Sinaia. He later launched several coffee shops and in 2011 he opened the Old Nick Pub in Bucharest.
But it seems that 5 To Go helped him gain a lot of entrepreneurial experience. Now, he wants to help more people start their own business in the coffee industry. He has done this primarily through the franchising system for 5 To Go, which is constantly growing. An architect and interior designer by profession, Savopol handles the design of the locations, each of them having a personal touch.
“There is an appetite for franchise, especially for those with a small investments and a good yield on the medium term. We have 3 years of market presence and we can easily analyze the results depending on the areas and the targeted cities. At present, almost all 5 To Go locations are opened in franchise system. There are franchisees with two-three or even four locations. There are constant requests for the expansion of the franchise by 2 years even before the end of the term when a franchise is profitable and people want to secure their business and their own revenue,” said Savopol.
After getting Romanians accustomed with the “to go” concept, Savopol has launched the “local entrepreneur” series telling the stories of people that operate 5 To Go shops or work as suppliers for the coffee chain.
Savopolo’s advice for those willing to start a business in the HoReCa sector: “They should be bold, careful to the competition around their business, innovate and be 100 percent involved in the start of the business.”