Monday, April 26, 2010

A Battle Is Brewin' At Frank Myers Auto

- NOTE: The following article will appear in NC Entrepreneur. Enjoy!

While McDonald’s continues to battle Starbucks and Dunkin' Donuts for the title of “Coffee King”, a North Carolina entrepreneur throws his brew into the mix.

"The coffee war has begun and I’m ready for a battle,” says Tracy Myers, owner of Frank Myers Auto Group, a group of businesses based in Winston-Salem, NC. "It's been coming for a while."

To get consumers to wake up and smell his brand, Myers poured an estimated twelve-hundred 8-ounce cups of Uncle Frank’s World-Class Gourmet Coffee at its flagship store last month.

Tracy is vying for his fix of the coffee business, which is expected to reach about $19 billion in the next five years, according to sales tracker Mintel. Convenience store giant 7-Eleven boosted its coffee program last year with new flavors and resealable cups. Even beverage giant Coca-Cola launched Coca-Cola Blak, a Coke-and-coffee combination.

McDonald's, with 13,700 U.S. locations, also wants its share. "One of the primary ways people select where they buy coffee is location," says Mintel market analyst Bill Hulkower. "If it's faster and easier to get coffee at a McDonald's drive-through, then the Starbucks brand may not be as powerful."

But Myers is ready for the battle and even has a secret weapon. "Customers are demanding great coffee, something Starbucks has been doing right for 30 years," says Myers. "The biggest difference between their coffee experience and ours is the price. Their coffee can cost as much as $4.00 a cup while ours is 100% free. I think with the superior quality of our coffee and the big difference in price, I can turn Frank Myers into a destination for something other than cars."

At least one Starbucks fan is unlikely to make the switch. "I don't frequent Frank Myers Auto Maxx" says Darryl Brenner, 34, a day trader from Rural Hall, NC as he sipped a grande, three-shot, non-fat latte. "The fact they make good coffee isn't going to change that."

Myers said he will still try. Invitations distributed in Winston-Salem last weekend encouraged residents to visit the dealerships coffee bar for their free 8-ounce serving of the the gourmet coffee and, in return, receive a free car wash.

"When people ask us why we’re giving away free gourmet coffee, the answer is simple. It’s our way of saying thanks to the folks who have supported the Myers family over the past 82 years and also meeting new friends…building new relationships,” says Ashley Bennett, Family Ambassador for Frank Myers Auto Group.

Hulkower adds that other choices will influence decisions. "It will depend on whether people want an Egg McMuffin with their coffee, a cranberry muffin, a doughnut or a car."

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