Jon Hassall didn’t plan on a long and successful career in the QSR sector – he just wanted £90 for a Super Nintendo console. In order to bolster his funds, he applied for a job at his local McDonald’s, planning only a short stint. He ended up staying for ten years. “Once you have hospitality, QSR and high velocity retailing in your blood it’s hard to leave,” he told Restaurant & Café. Hassall has now run coffee and bakery businesses in five countries and is as excited and passionate about the industry as day one – and he still has his Nintendo.

Hassall is currently the general manager of Foodco New Zealand, a role he has held since earlier this year, having been national operations manager since April 2016. Foodco currently operates more than 400 Muffin Break and Jamaica Blues cafés across New Zealand, Australia, the UK and throughout Asia, with plans to significantly expand the brands in New Zealand in the near future. Jamaica Blue very recently celebrated it’s 25-year anniversary in Australia and has been operating globally for a similar period.

The hardest part of the industry, according the Hassall, is the perception surrounding price held by the Kiwi public. “Most Kiwis (and tourists) have a figure in their head what a flat white, big breakfast or milkshake should cost, however, when we go to the grocery shop we all see prices have risen sharply on dairy, some proteins and fruit,” he said. “We know there are cheaper cups of coffee in the market place – however Jamaica Blue offers an unrivalled escape from your day, award winning customer service and overall value for money.”

Jamaica Blue recently launched a promotion where customers visiting three or more locations within a month and were rewarded – an alternative to a traditional loyalty programme. “We were pleasantly surprised when we learnt a significant number of people had visited them all,” Hassall admitted. “We think this is a testament to our commitment on coffee and because our cafes are locally owned and operated we don’t have a cookie cutter menu, so you’ll have a little bit of personality and a lot of variety at each location.”

Jamaica Blue has seven locations in Auckland and a recent opening in Hamilton, and Hassall plans to have five more opening in the next few years in Auckland and Christchurch. Also exciting is the introduction of UberEats to its Browns Bay store, soon to roll out to other locations. “We had a fantastic training session and dry runs and went live earlier this month,” explained Hassall. “In truth we were probably thinking our first order would be a bacon and egg roll or a Jamaica Blue Big Breakfast, but one customer at Browns Bay was after 2 cheese and bacon burgers with an extra order of fries at 9:15am!”

Hassall and his young family have been in New Zealand for 18 months. “I’ve met some fantastic franchisees and seen inside a lot of shopping malls but I’ve not spent nearly enough time visiting the rest of this beautiful country,” he said. However, with a 14-week-old girl and three-year-old son and a house being built in Beachlands, those plans may be on hold for a while.