After years working in IT, this food-industry veteran has found a brand that speaks to him personally and professionally as he builds for his future
When a new Just Love Coffee cafe franchise opens in Shelby Township, Michigan, later this year, it may have some extra tech-oriented bells and whistles. That’s because owner Olsi Kapoli is a longtime IT veteran with time at General Motors and Hewlett-Packard under his belt. Before he got a degree in information systems and security, however, the Albanian native had a long history working in restaurants — and he is eager to return.
What got you thinking about a return to food service?
As I have been working in IT, I have also been working in the food industry in various capacities. I’m 33 and probably have been working in restaurants for half my life. My father’s cousin had a coffee shop in Albania, so I have seen that part of the industry up close. I also did some bartending, and after moving to the United States I worked at some chain restaurants as a server, bartender and manager while I was going to school. I’ve even worked at a golf club restaurant.
Whenever I would stop working in food service and just do IT work, I found I missed the interactions with people. I like talking to different people, and I like working in the food and beverage industry. So I began looking around to see what options were out there in terms of owning my own operation.
What part of owning a Just Love Coffee cafe appealed to you?
My wife and I purchased an apartment as a real estate investment, and then we decided to begin growing a real estate business. It’s great, but it’s not what I wanted to focus on. Then we thought about owning our own restaurant because my mom is a great cook. We were looking at something that would be cheese and meat platters, beer and wine, something not found in the local market. We fiddled with a menu, began looking around — and realized it was going to be too expensive.
You often see new restaurants, even great ones, go under because of all that expense. My wife suggested looking at franchising, and while I liked the idea I didn’t want to open another location of anything that was already here. We certainly don’t need another Starbucks or Subway. I wanted something interesting, and when I began searching I found Just Love. It caught my eye immediately; I didn’t even think it was a coffee place at first!
There are lots of places to get coffee; how is Just Love different?
As I researched the brand, read information and watched videos from the founders, I really liked what they were all about. And then when I began looking at the food, I fell in love with the waffle idea — we don’t have that in the Detroit area, so I would be bringing something new here. I reached out and spoke with some franchise owners, and then I spent some time in Nashville and was just amazed. It’s not just a coffee shop; it’s a place to meet friends, to have a meal, to even listen to entertainment. It’s so welcoming and so different from other coffee-bar concepts that are out there.
How else do you think Just Love stands out?
It doesn’t churn customers. They come, are welcomed and hang out as long as they like. Just Love uses mugs; I love that. My wife and I loved Friends, and a big thing about that coffee-shop set, Central Perk, is that they used mugs and silver, not cheap throwaway stuff. It feels like an authentic, friendly place and not just another coffee place or restaurant.
What else about Just Love’s onboarding process eased your mind?
Everyone we met with was so eager to help. We had help with finding a great location, and also with the next steps of hiring builders and getting the location ready. My favorite part has been getting the sign up, because we’re in a busy area and want people to know something great is coming! I also am very reassured by all the conversations we’ve had about training, not just for ahead of time but during and after we open, so that we have all the operations down and everything runs smoothly from the outset. Everyone has been very generous with their time and attention, and we are just so eager to be open and serving our friends and neighbors.
After the launch of two successful locations in Brentwood and Nashville, Tennessee, one of the hottest cities in the nation, Just Love Coffee is primed for expansion in 2018. Led by an executive team with proven experience in growing franchise systems, Just Love Coffee is an ideal investment for new or experienced entrepreneurs who want to get in on the ground floor of the most exciting business opportunity in the $12 billion U.S. coffee shop industry.