Aroma Joe’s culture elevates the handcrafted drinks and friendly service at each location.
By Staci Davidson
Aroma Joe’s is selective about who they partner with as franchisees and takes great pride in seeing their successes once they come on board. One time, they had a Manufactory Specialist/Maintenance Mechanic at a local semiconductor plant came talk to CEO Loren Goodridge when an Aroma Joe’s opened near his office. He liked the idea of franchising and wanted more information.
“He met with me, we talked about the franchise, how much it costs to build one and how much you have to have down to be qualified,” Goodridge explains. “He was close, but he didn’t have enough to be qualified by a bank, so he went away. We were both disappointed. But he came back a few weeks later – he had sold his nice car and got a beater so he would have enough for the franchise. His location is very successful, and now he’s opening his second location.”
Goodridge notes Aroma Joe’s franchisees may come from different walks of life, but the company teaches them how to be successful entrepreneurs, and that informs its positive culture. The goal of Aroma Joe’s is to be more than a coffee company, instead focusing on “fueling the modern world.” It does this by serving positive energy in the form of great, custom drinks and an upbeat customer experience. Aroma Joe’s continues to win over more customers with a combination of great ingredients and its three laws of service: no intercoms, no mistakes, no attitudes. This keeps the Aroma Joe’s experience fast-paced, friendly and part of customers’ daily routines.
“The company got started by two sets of brothers – they are cousins – who are very caring. They care about the people who work for them and care about the customers,” Goodridge says. “When I got involved in 2013, I continued to place emphasis on that core value. Take our baristas, whether they want to be a business owner or a scientist, we encourage and counsel them to achieve their goals. Many of our baristas want to become franchisees and we have education programs to help them make this a reality. They are always the best franchisees because they grew up in the brand and know the culture.”
Goodridge notes the company’s diverse and extensive drink offering makes it popular with the youth demographic. All of Aroma Joe’s proprietary coffee blends – used in all coffee and espresso drinks – are rainforest alliance certified and craft-roasted in small batches. This is a point of pride for the brand and unique in the QSR coffee space. Their coffee and espresso drinks can then be customized with various flavors, dairy and plant-based milk choices and customized toppings. This is definitely the type of place you can get an amazing cup of black coffee, one of their signature Lattes or create your own favorite flavor combination. AJ’s RUSH® is Aroma Joe’s proprietary energy drink which can be infused with any of the company’s signature flavor combinations. AJ’s RUSH is one of their most popular offerings and has connected the brand to younger customers who become fans for life and look towards Aroma Joe’s as their “energy destination.” It also offers items such as frozen lemonade and fruit smoothies.
“The coffee business is unique because the coffee customer is a very loyal customer,” Goodridge says. “People don’t jump around chains that much and it can be hard to win customers over. But when you do, they visit five to seven times a week, and you get to know them, know their kids, know their dogs and have their beverage ready when they are at the window. The people who understand this excel in this business.”
Focus on Profitability
Aroma Joe’s holds to highly selective franchisee criteria to ensure its focus on care, culture and quality are maintained. The company doesn’t accept investors – only owner/operators – and works with them on an ongoing basis to help them be successful. It holds monthly customer engagement classes, for example, where it teaches franchisees and front-line baristas how to engage customers in a positive and meaningful way. Not only does Aroma Joe’s invest in its franchisees, it has been successful in growing new locations with existing owners.
“We focus on franchise and franchisee profitability,” Goodridge says. “We are in the field all the time working with them. We have four to five full-time people for 67 locations, just going to the shops, engaging the franchisees, ensuring they are serving quality beverages, helping them run their shops profitably, answering questions and helping them be successful. We work with them side by side.”
The company also has a Barista to Owner program, where it allows baristas who have worked with Aroma Joe’s for at least two years to enroll in the 14-month program. The course teaches them to be an entrepreneur, with classes in topics such as accounting, store selection, lease negotiation and finance. The Barista to Owner program covers all the basics of running an Aroma Joe’s business, and if the Barista graduates from the program Aroma Joe’s provides them with help opening their own franchise. Goodridge explains this helps the company grow with the right people and maintains its culture.
“We developed our strategic plan with many of our franchisees, and now we will start on the strategic plan for 2025,” he says. “Franchisees help us to grow and improve the brand for the entire company, so they have a major seat at the table. Franchisees are the foundation for our company – we are not successful without them being successful.”