Interview with Tobias Zimmer, CEO of Coffee-Bike


Feb 10, 2017

Biography - Tobias Zimmer

Tobias Zimmer is the Chief Executive Officer and founder of Coffee-Bike.

He obtained a MBA degree and a German University Diploma of Business Administration from studying in Marburg, Leipzig, New York and Seoul. 

At the age of 25 he founded Coffee-Bike with his business partner Jan Sander. The system grew within the last 3 years to over 90 franchisees in 8 countries.

1.     Tell us about the Coffee-Bike concept.

The Coffee-Bike concept is one of the fastest growing and most innovative franchise systems in Germany. Our more than 90 partners can create delicious organic coffee specialities at their Coffee-Bikes, at any location and at a time they choose themselves. Mobility is important as the Coffee-Bike is not only self-sufficient, it can also be operated for up to 14 hours without having to be recharged. To add to that, the Bike is so flexible that it can reach even unusual places and that it can offer the whole product portfolio of a normal Coffee-Shop everywhere. We also give our partners the chance to become an entrepreneur, they can take responsibility for their Bike themselves and be their own boss. Our philosophy consists of product quality, mobility and entrepreneurship. We place a lot of emphasis on good quality, from the coffee to a wide range of by-products. The beans are freshly grinded on the Bike, with our own “grind on demand” mills and are then made into tasty coffee creations with professional portafilter machines. The concept has something to offer for everyone: If you are looking to have only one Coffee-Bike, that´s great. If you want more than that, you are free to operate as many Coffee-Bikes as you wish and become a multi-unit entrepreneur.

2.     How and when did you become involved with Coffee-Bike?

We were on holiday in Denmark when we saw someone in a park selling coffee. It looked completely different to our Coffee-Bike and it was only one person instead of a franchise system, but it seemed to work very well. It was on that holiday when we thought we should have something like this in Germany and we should develop a whole business concept behind it, it has great potential. Then me and my Partner Jan Sander founded the company in 2010 and started building our own Coffee-Bike.


3.     What was your background prior to joining Coffee-Bike?

Before founding the company, I had just completed my MBA at University. So the idea of the Coffee-Bike came exactly at the right time. Because my business partner and I founded the company straight after University, we still see ourselves as a young and dynamic start-up company, which will revolutionize the coffee market.


4.     What are some of the advantages in being a Coffee-Bike franchisee?

The six most important advantages of the Coffee-Bike franchise are the following:

· No monthly fixed costs: Forget the large fixed costs of a local coffee shop. We also don´t set a fixed revenue minimum which you have to reach. You only pay a franchise and marketing fee on coffees you actually sell and not on any other products. No hidden fees.

· Low initial investment: There is no expensive shop construction and an unrivalled low entrance fee. Moreover, you can choose between our purchasing- and our rental model as well as your preferred bike version: our traditional Coffee-Bike or the E-Coffee-Bike.

· A strong brand: Benefit from a proven concept and a comprehensive marketing concept, ranging from an internationally protected brand to press coverage for every new partner.

· Technological innovations: Our franchise partners always make suggestions for improvements out of their own experience. Many innovations have already resulted from this shared knowledge network.

· 24-hour service: We say we are always there for you and we really mean it. Our franchise support offers a service hotline around the clock to help with any problems you may have.

· Coffee specialities available whenever and wherever you want: If you work part- or full-time, just choose the time and location of your business yourself! We won´t stop you. The Coffee-Bike is self-sufficient and can be operated anywhere. 


5.     Who is your ideal franchisee

Our ideal franchisee is not a particular type of person regarding age or personal background. We welcome anyone into our franchise system who has the same passion for coffee that we have, who is motivated and ready to take initiative by themselves, who has good communication skills and the commitment to deliver an excellent service. We do have a Franchise Consultant who gives our partners all round support. We also operate an Event Portal, which includes a wide range of events which our partners can sign up to. But we also expect from our partners to take own initiative. This means proactively looking for locations to operate the Bike, to acquire events and celebrations to work on and to do some own marketing as well. All of this feeds into part of our philosophy of our partners being entrepreneurs, which can be very rewarding and a lot of fun. People who show these attributes are our ideal franchisees.  


6.     Tell us a little about the coffee Market?

The coffee market in general is a billion pound market. However especially the to go segment is still underdeveloped in Europe, but it keeps growing. The majority of coffee shop chains are not that profitable, because they have extremely high fixed costs, partly due to the high rental costs in premium locations. In contrast to this stands our Coffee-Bike franchise concept, which keeps the fixed costs to a minimum and is more profitable as it eliminates the biggest cost factor of a traditional coffee shop.


7.     What are some of the greatest lessons you’ve learned in growing this franchise?

I have learned that if you are trying to convince people to invest in your franchise and become your partner, you have to present them with a sustainable concept which works. The people want to get back the money they invest. Also, as a franchise system it is extremely important that you provide ongoing support to your franchisees. I can confidently say that we have achieved both things by now.


8.     Do you have a mentor and is there someone you use for inspiration?

I would consider my former Entrepreneurship Professor, Prof. Dr. Stephan Stubner as my mentor. He founded many companies himself and showed me an alternative to the classical banking or consulting career. It was partly because of him that I decided to become an entrepreneur myself.


9.     What advice do you have for someone looking to acquire a Franchise?

I would say: Definitely go for it. Franchise systems have guided so many people into self-employment, coming from the most diverse backgrounds, in Germany and abroad. You take the entrepreneurial risk, of course, but you have a whole franchise system behind you with many partners who have made similar experiences to you. So the risk is limited due to the proven concept you are part of. You can use that advantage to your benefit and learn from the people who have already gone through the same process. In our case, over 100 Coffee-Bikes are out on the streets in Germany and abroad. From all of them, nobody has ever gone bankrupt. Do you think the 101st Coffee-Biker will go bankrupt? We are convinced that they won´t. 

10.  In your opinion, why do you think that Coffee-Bike would be a great opportunity for someone?

Let me give you an example: We have one partner on the north-eastern coast of Germany. He started with one unit, in his second year he bought a second unit, in his third year he bought a third unit and now he is just opening a fourth unit. Our partner obtained four units within three years and he had earned the money to do so. Successful multi-unit entrepreneurs are the best proof that Coffee-Bike is a great opportunity for anyone and that our franchise system really works.


 More information on the Coffee-Bike Franchise