Sales by branded coffee shops in the U.S. — think Starbucks, Dunkin’ Donuts and Tim Hortons — reached $45.8 billion by June 2022, 96% of their pre-pandemic level. 7 Brew Drive-Thru Coffee, the coffee shop chain founded in 2016 and now based in Fayetteville, is growing rapidly as it aims to grab a chunk of that $45.8 billion.
Little Rock’s first location, at the site of the former Shorty Small’s restaurant at 11100 N. Rodney Parham Road, was scheduled to open last Monday, though a visit to the location on Wednesday showed that construction was still underway.
The expansion of 7 Brew was supercharged two years ago with a majority investment from Drink House Holdings, described as a “partnership focused exclusively on the consumer sector.”
“The Company also unveiled plans to launch its franchising program, fueling accelerated growth and expansion across the country,” said the March 23, 2021, news release announcing the investment.
Drink House Holdings is led by a couple of heavy hitters in the restaurant industry: Jamie B. Coulter, founder of Lone Star Steakhouse, and Jimmy John Liautaud, the founder and former chairman of Jimmy John’s sandwich chain. Forbes puts Liautaud’s net worth at $1.7 billion.
“We believe the drive-thru category is ripe for reinvention and rapid growth and we’re well positioned to disrupt and lead,” Liautaud said in the news release.
“We have set ambitious growth and expansion goals, including launching a franchising program, and Drink House Holdings’ expertise will be invaluable in achieving those goals,” said Evan Grisham, who was then the president and director of franchising for 7 Brew.
At the time, 7 Brew had just nine units. Its website indicates it currently has 42 locations in 13 states. Florida Today reported in May that 165 locations were planned for Florida alone over the next five years.
The COVID-19 pandemic put added emphasis on the drive-through experience at restaurants and coffee shops, and 7 Brew is poised to take advantage of that shift. And 7 Brew shops are small, typically just 500 SF.
So what do the coffee shops offer? The usual coffee drinks, naturally, such as lattes and cappuccinos, but also specialty drinks like the Blondie (caramel and vanilla breve), as well as teas and smoothies.
7 Brew was co-founded by Ron Crume, an Oregon native who opened his first location in Rogers in 2017. “We want to be a national chain,” Crume told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette in 2017. “And we want our home to be here in Northwest Arkansas.”
The August news release announcing the first Little Rock location quoted Brandon Sebald of Brew Crew LLC. “The Company has grand plans for the Little Rock market with double-digit stands planned for the future, and several sites opening before the end of 2022,” Sebald said. “Little Rock, get ready for the coffee revolution.”
Flake & Co. of Little Rock announced late last year that a second 7 Brew location in Little Rock was planned for 8023 Cantrell Road.
Sebald was a Northwest Arkansas Business Journal 40 Under 40 honoree last year. His profile said he moved to northwest Arkansas in 2012 to open Planet Fitness locations in the area and that he had recently left a Planet Fitness group after reaching a deal to sell its 92 locations in six states. Sebald was described as becoming, in 2021, the first franchisee for 7 Brew.
Efforts to reach Sebald or the corporate team at 7 Brew were unsuccessful.