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Cafe Blue to open sixth coffee shop at Sangster Airport

Published:Wednesday | June 15, 2016 | 6:01 AMSteven Jackson
In this October 15, 2013 file photo, a Cafe Blue server shows off the pastries on offer at the coffee shop.

Cafe Blue, the fastest-growing local coffee shop, will open its sixth location next month at the busy Sangster International Airport in Montego Bay.

It will also result in the company operating from both major international airports.

Cafe Blue operator Jason Sharp appears to prize the new location more for the exposure of his brand - some 3.8 million travellers pass through Sangster on a yearly basis - than for the profit it may generate. The space to be occupied was previously a fast-food shop, which the former tenant vacated due to the cost of occupancy.

"It is an opportunity to build the brand, and it might not be vastly profitable, but it builds brand equity," said Sharp, a director of Cafe Blue's parent company Coffee Traders Limited. "Coffee is an important part of an airport's offering and if the opportunity is not taken up by local operator then it will be taken up by a foreign interest," he said.

The new shop will employ 12, growing the chain's staff complement to 87. The wider Coffee Traders company employs 1,000 workers, most of whom are contracted farmers and pickers.

Sharp declined to reveal the initial capital spend to design and operate the new store which will span some 1,200 square feet in the departure pre-security area of the airport.

The shop space formerly occupied by Burger King remained vacant for some two years. Burger King franchise holder Richard Lake previously described the concession fees in 2014 as one of the most expensive in the country. The airport management at the time maintained that the fees were in line with international norm.

The fast-food chain occupied space at the airport until its five-year lease expired. The airport charges fees rather than rent as operator of the airport.

Mexico based Pacific Airport Group and Canada-based Vantage Airport group operate the airport under a 30-year concession agreement with the Jamaican Government.

Sharp declined to reveal whether CafÈ Blue would pay the same US$135,000 in annual fees that the former tenant quoted alongside a share of sales above a certain threshold.

"I can't speak to that figure. There is, however, a system of revenue split and a minimum rental amount," he said.

Coffee Traders Limited one of the largest processors of Jamaica Blue Mountain coffee, exports mainly green beans to the developed world led by Japan. It views the CafÈ Blue brand as a means of offering value-added roasted beans to locals and visitors.

The coffee trader opened its first cafe in Irish Town, St Andrew in 2006, later expanding to the Sovereign Centre and Norman Manley International Airport in Kingston. It subsequently branched out to Fairview shopping centre and Rose Hall shopping centre in Montego Bay. A deck patio was recently added at the Irish Town shop, which links with neighbouring shops, effectively tripling the seating capacity of the stores.

The company also supplies coffee canteens to other branded cafes and businesses.

steven.jackson@gleanerjm.com