Tomoka Coffee

The seven-decade-old Tomoca Coffee company has joined in the deluge of international food and retail chains establishing a presence in Kenya and tapping into the continent's expanding consumer class.

The oldest coffee chain in the country is testing the waters abroad with a new location that provides in-shop roasting and a packaging facility alongside a coffee drink service area spread over a footprint of 250Sqm, located at Two-Rivers Mall in Nairobi. The new coffee chain, which has taken on 20 Kenyan employees, will source its coffee beans from Ethiopia, Kenya and Rwanda, with a focus on single-origin blends of the house specialty.

Tomoca Coffee has chosen a joint partnership with a local investor for its new venture rather than the franchise model of expansion. The coffee shop, which will officially open its doors July 1st, will showcase Ethiopian products on its shelves such as honey, leather and textile products.

"Currently, we're just having a soft opening for testing a few employees and handing out a visiting invitation," said Wondwossen Z. Meshesha, chief global operations officer of Tomoca Coffee.

Spanning 12 months from planning to execution, the new flagship shop was designed by Elnes Design Consultancy & Marketing, the eight-year-old sister company of Tomoca behind the design of all Tomoca locations, and was constructed by a Kenyan firm.

"Kenya has a very young and dynamic population with a wide consumer base that demands high-quality products and services," said Wondwossen.

The retail industry in Kenya is also supported by low overhead fees, mainly through low rental fees and attractive incentives by property owners, according to the operations officer.

"As part of the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) community, it is also a great benefit for us to venture out first within the East African community before elsewhere," he said.

This is a commendable milestone for the historic coffee chain, according to Aweke Mekonnen, an independent marketing management consultant for close to a decade.

"The coffee chain, however, should have a strong grip over its brand abroad, as it' hard to maintain quality in expansion plans," he said. "It should also place Ethiopian managers at the outlets that know the brand inside and out."

Tomoca is also taking Ethiopian coffee to new frontiers with an additional two Kenyan shops that will provide coffee drink services only. The new coffee shops, which will both have a size of 100Sqm, are currently under construction.

With a new strategy, the coffee chain plans to expand aggressively within the continent in the next 10 years, aiming at a minimum of 250 shops. Standing on its symbolic title as the oldest Ethiopian Coffee chain in Kenya, it aims to take the Ethiopian blend global with a step into North America next year, then Turkey, the United Kingdom, Europe, the Middle East and Asia.

"We had to wait for a couple of months before opening our doors due to the global pandemic after finishing up our investments," said Wondwossen.

Tomoca Coffee, which took eight years to branch out in Ethiopia, also plans to open 100 coffee shops in the country over the next decade. Currently, the coffee shop is setting up a new state-of-the-art coffee factory with an investment of 10 million dollars to pursue a value-added roasted coffee for the international market.

The new coffee factory, which is awaiting the installation of machinery after taking close to two years for construction, is expected to employ over 100 employees. For its local operations, the coffee giant built a coffee factory that sprawls over 1,500Sqm in Dukem eight years ago.

Tomoca Coffee, which started in 1953, is now supporting more than 300 employees with 11 branches in Addis Abeba and one branch in Bishoftu (Debre Zeit). The chain is currently working on constructing five additional branches in the capital.

PUBLISHED ON Jun 20,2020 [ VOL 21 , NO 1051]

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