If you’ve walked down Robinson Road or One Raffles Place, a bright yellow storefront would’ve probably caught your eye. Coffee drinkers holding flashy yellow cups are likely to have been seen in the vicinity too.
Flash Coffee, the well-loved coffee chain from Indonesia, made its entrance into Singapore last October and now has five outlets here. It first launched in January 2020, and now operates 50 locations across Singapore, Thailand and Indonesia.
The tech-enabled coffee chain has enjoyed strong traction in its markets despite the pandemic, with the majority of its stores already achieving profitability and demonstrating the success of its business model.
The rapidly-growing chain was founded by CEO David Brunier and COO Sebastian Hannecker. The duo started Flash Coffee as a single outlet in Jakarta, with the ambition to become a fully tech-driven coffee chain.
Coffee That Leverages Upon Tech
In an interview with Vulcan Post, David shared his observation about the coffee industry. It was mostly not digitised and many brands were serving average quality coffee at premium prices, making it largely unaffordable to the mass markets.
He explained that the high prices are mostly driven by spacious locations, unoptimised staffing and under-utilised baristas. That was when the self-professed foodie and coffee enthusiast realised there was a tremendous potential to create a fully re-imagined customer experience in the coffee industry.
Right after university, David spent more than four years at European food delivery giant Delivery Hero SE with the goal of eventually building a startup of his own.
In 2019, Rocket Internet’s founders Oliver Samwer and Alexander Kudlich reached out to him and asked if he would be open to founding a new company with them. Rocket Internet is a Berlin-based tech incubator, and some of the companies it has helped kickstart include Lazada and Zalora.
“It was also around that time that Luckin Coffee had their S$4 billion IPO after operating for 18 months, which got me excited and made me take a deeper look into the coffee industry,” said David.
David describes the day he met co-founder Sebastian as “likely the most impactful day for Flash Coffee”, as the two hit it off the moment they met. They had a very similar idea of how they envisioned Flash Coffee to be.
A year after its launch, Flash Coffee has evolved into a full fledged tech-driven company that is “ready to support the launch of hundreds of stores in the next months and power thousands of our customers’ orders daily.”
This is done via a myriad of technological processes that the brand has incorporated into its operations.
First, its consumer app enables customers to order and pay online, pick up their drinks or get them delivered, use Flash’s loyalty programme and take part in challenges.
The app also enables Flash to use e-commerce strategies to acquire and retain customers proactively, which reinvents the way coffee and F&B businesses grow and build their customer bases.
It also allows Flash to attract customers who would have never independently passed by one of their outlets.
Flash also has a barista app, which is the bridge between the consumer app and the respective outlets that consumers order from. According to David, it improves the operational efficiency of stores and enables performance-based incentives for its baristas, ensuring an unparalleled customer experience.
Besides apps, Flash is also working on implementing fully automated stock counts and purchase orders via sensor technology. Furthermore, it makes use of a centralised online configuration and monitoring system to avoid the breakdown of equipment and ensure consistency of products across different outlets.
Property tech softwares are used to understand customer flow, identify high demand areas, and determine offline traffic conversion rates.
Not A Run-Of-The-Mill Coffee Brand
Besides its technological capabilities, Flash also sets itself apart from other players in the industry via other metrics.
For example, the brand prides itself on its affordability. A regular Americano at Flash Coffee goes for S$2.80 a cup, giving competitors a run for their money.
David told Vulcan Post that many customers switch from other commercial coffee brands to Flash Coffee, as they are looking for higher quality, yet more affordable coffee options to enjoy daily.
Despite its affordable pricing, it does not compromise on quality.
The chain’s menu is curated by four internationally-renowned barista champions, and the brand also aims to provide customers with a coffee experience they usually only get at a specialty coffee shop.
Furthermore, the pandemic has changed the way consumers order and consume coffee tremendously. Many now get their coffee delivered to them, and the Flash Coffee concept matches the new normal.
Growing A Coffee Empire
Most recently, Flash Coffee raised US$15 million in Series A funding led by global tech investment firm White Star Capital.
Other investors in the round, which brought the company’s total capital to US$20 million, were Delivery Hero-backed DX Ventures, Global Founders Capital and Switzerland-based venture capital firm Conny & Co.
The team is now planning to launch an additional 300 outlets by the end of 2021. It already launches three new outlets per week, but plans to bring the number up to 10 per week.
This is fuelled by the significant growth in per capita consumption of coffee across the region. According to David, Flash Coffee’s total addressable market is worth more than US$80 billion.
As coffee education progresses in Asia, the demand for premium coffee and higher quality options is also increasing rapidly. We will further enable this demand by making premium coffee more accessible to the quickly rising middle class which is largely unable to afford great coffee due to its price.David Brunier, Co-founder and CEO, Flash Coffee
The Flash Coffee vision is to democratise high-quality coffee and make it accessible to Asia’s rising middle class.
To reach this goal, the founders plan to build a tech-driven powerhouse to build new brands across the region, top-of-class operational processes and a fully-integrated value chain including in-house production facilities to further drive backward integrations.
It also plans to establish its regional headquarters in Singapore, where they anticipate to hire over 90 new staff members by the end of 2021.
“We will further expand our core competencies of technology, operational excellence, and brand building in order to be well-equipped to outperform the F&B sector in Asia,” said David.
Featured Image Credit: Flash Coffee