ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — There’s an artichoke-and-havarti melt on the menu, a simple, circular logo on the door and an urban vibe inside.
Meet the new Satellite Coffee.
The local café chain has overhauled the menu and refreshed the design at its 1131 University NE shop, creating a blueprint for the company’s future locations – locations that may soon include franchises. CEO Jean Bernstein says Satellite is moving toward franchising and could start signing contracts with outside operators by year’s end.
“We’ve had a lot of interest in Satellite over the years, and I think it’s a great way to grow,” Bernstein said. “It’s a very efficient model, and we’re making sure before we do go out there that all the details are in place, so the culture and details are as top quality as we would do it ourselves.”
Growth likely will begin in the Southwest states. Satellite has no franchisees yet but will focus on partners who already know the business.
“It seems to be (that) a lot of people want to own a coffee shop and not everybody should own a coffee shop,” Bernstein said.
Satellite’s sister company, Flying Star, is not part of the franchise plans. Opening a Flying Star demands so much more capital, real estate and manpower that Bernstein likened it to powering up a battleship. The Satellite model, she
said, is “nimbler.”
Although Satellite’s rebranding coincides with its move toward franchising, Bernstein said change was due. The coffeehouse needed to establish an identity separate from Flying Star. Satellite originated as a small coffee-roasting operation inside Flying Star’s Nob Hill café in the mid-1990s. Its first stand-alone location opened in 1998, and Satellite adopted a look similar to Flying Star and even mirrored its bright logo.
But with nine locations of its own, Bernstein said Satellite had to distinguish itself. “It was just time,” said Bernstein, CEO of both companies.
Satellite’s University store – the chain’s busiest, newest and one of its largest – adopted the changes earlier this month.
The new interior design incorporates stacked stone, dark metal panels and plenty of wood, including tabletops fashioned from reclaimed bosque timber. Bernstein said the goal was to create a warm-but-urban feel by using interesting materials.
The design changes – still only 80 percent done – are subtle compared to the remade menu. While the coffee menu stayed the same, Satellite now offers a dozen sandwiches, several salads and a host of breakfast options. Additions include a “Tibouli Timbale” salad with organic quinoa tabouli, feta, cucumber, tomato and spinach ($8) and grilled peanut butter and jelly sandwich ($5).
“(Customers) want their coffee, they need their coffee, but they want food because they don’t want to run off somewhere else to get food,” Bernstein said.
A few Satellite favorites survived – the vegan “Rabbit Wrap” among them – but Bernstein said most were upgraded and, in some cases, will cost more.
The existing Satellites will implement some of the same signage and design elements but aren’t equipped with the kitchens to serve the same menu. However, any future Satellites – and Bernstein said she plans to build more in Albuquerque – would adhere to the new model. Eventual franchise shops will also be “darn close,” she said.