Life in the fast lane
Dubbo business expanding into new markets...
The coffee connoisseurs of Dubbo are no strangers to The Fast Lane Drive-thru, with two locations in busy parts of Dubbo city. But it doesn’t stop there, with the chain expanding into southern NSW and Queensland. NATALIE HOLMES caught up with company founder Paula Anderson. As a consumer, what is your favourite coffee?
My coffee of choice is an almond milk flat white on Milk Lab almond milk only (painful I know!)
Where did you get the idea for drive-through coffee?
My husband Brett saw the idea whilst on a business trip to Geelong. My friend Karen Chant and I were looking for a niche, scalable business. The Fast Lane was born. I was fortunate enough that Brett owned our first site in Bultje Street and it provided the perfect location so things began to fall into place.
How did you get started on this journey?
I had previous experience with running my own business with Sticks and Stones, so that part was okay... the coffee section was another story. I was at a stage where my children were older and I had the time and head space to work on something for myself.
Once the idea was on the table, The Fast Lane was a series of small steps with a lot of help from Brett, Karen, solicitors, accountants and the internet.
Dubbo Council were great to deal with as it was a new concept for them but were very proactive in helping us out.
The Fine Food Fair opened my eyes to products and we had a consultant from a roaster in Maitland help us initially with set-up and training.
What did you do before you started this business?
I have had a few hats: physiotherapist, mum, co-founder of Sticks and Stones Woodfired Pizza, teacher’s aide at Juvenile Justice.
What has been the evolution from beginning the business to owning an interstate chain?
I think flexibility in my life is the biggest motivator for owning my own business, and with this in mind I needed to develop the model to allow this. We opened Bultje Street in 2009 and White Street in 2011 and, from the start, the concept has lent itself to replication. Franchising was a perfect way to expand.
It has been quite a slow process as I engaged my first franchise consultant two years in, and it took until 2015 for our first franchise to open in Rockhampton. It was not the most logical location for your first site, but our first franchisee Patti worked in our Dubbo sites and was keen to open her own site in Rockhampton. She opened a second site in 2017.
In the interim, we found a great location in Wagga Wagga and Tracy opened ‘Wagga 1’ in 2016 and ‘Wagga 2’ in early 2018.
I sold my company-owned sites to Ricki in 2017 to allow me to concentrate on expansion.
We are now focusing on building our concept in the areas around our current locations and opened a company-owned store in Maryborough, Qld late last year with the idea to fill in the gaps between Maryborough and Rockhampton. We currently have a DA in for a site in Gladstone and are about to lodge one in Hervey Bay. Every town we go through, we are always assessing potential locations as they are the hardest part of our journey.
We started roasting our own coffee a couple of years into the business and now have two roasters in Hawthorn Street where we roast and dispatch to all locations weekly. In May, Ricki will open a small walk-up-only site at the front of our roaster.
Has Dubbo’s embracement of the product helped you to expand?
Of course. Dubbo’s successes and failures have taught me a lot and allowed me the confidence in my model to go to the next stage.
We have some customers that have been with us from the first day and that is just beautiful. We can have the best of days and the worst of days and I am so grateful and excited to still be going strong in our tenth year of business.
Now that you have so many outlets, what is your ultimate aim?
I am at a stage that I need to expand the skillset of the company and am looking to employ franchise-specific managers in head office with the skills and knowledge to create a more professional and polished product that we can see Australia-wide (and beyond).
What would your advice be to others who want to start their own company?
Practically: Ask lots of questions
Watch your cash flow
Delegate/outsource what you aren’t good at Emotionally:
Remember the motto “this too will pass”.
Dubbo entrepreneur Paula Anderson has taken The Fast Lane Drive-thru into the world of franchising.