Lessons from Cafepreneurs: Miguel Escueta of Frank x Dean

Updated: Dec 21, 2021

A cup of coffee with latte art beside a laptop computer

If you’re thinking of starting a coffee business in the Philippines—or any business for that matter—you should know it isn’t all rainbows and unicorns. There are just as many bad days as there are good ones. Many entrepreneurs find themselves in a challenging position to adapt to changes and setbacks.

In today’s post, we sit down with Miguel Escueta, owner of Frank x Dean, to talk about his past coffee business mistakes and what he did to overcome them.

3 Coffee Business Mistakes with Frank x Dean

Our conversation happened in Frank x Dean’s first branch in Forbestown Center in Taguig. Like the many pretty Instagram photos promise, the interiors are vibrant, homey, and rustic. You can feel the spirits of the two legends—Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin—the coffee shop-cum-diner was named after.

Miguel brought us a Long Black, a strong concoction made out of its hearty Sultan Kudarat brew. We took a good sip, set up our microphones, and went for it.

Lesson #1: Don’t try to be too many things.

Though Frank x Dean’s branding today is clear as the sun, it didn’t start that way. "A lot of [people] didn't come back because it wasn't clear who we were,” Miguel recalled. "After research, FGDs, and talking to our consumers, we learned that they came back for the coffee and the experience in our store. So that was what we tried to build."

Building on the shop’s experience proved fruitful for FxD. Their efforts to truly reach out to their customers extend far beyond the cup of joe they take to-go. Visit the coffee shop, snap a nice little photo, and expect to get a shoutout on their Instagram as one of the shop’s “friends.” Or if you’re lucky, get your polaroid tacked in their famous photo wall of loyal patrons. They also host community events like gigs.

That all adds up to what it feels like walking into Frank x Dean’s shop: a friendly and cozy place to work at or unwind in.

Lesson #2: Rent costs a lot. Choose spaces wisely.

Frank x Dean’s first branch is a beautiful two-story space with wide areas that invites you to roam around and check out the interiors and adornments. That’s all well and good, but Miguel has something to say. "I think we rented out a space that's too big,” he explains. “Rent is too expensive. To be honest, it's hard to be profitable if your space is too big. We did the shift to doing smaller coffee shops.

In the Unilever lobby, we rented out a small space of 10 square meters. So if we're averaging

40 cups a day in our Forbestown Center branch, the Unilever branch is doing 150 cups a day in a space that's a tenth of [this branch]."

That’s a good bit of knowledge to take away for people who want to start building their own coffee business in the Philippines.

Lesson #3: Know your priorities (you don’t have to give up other passions).

Before building successful F&D brands, Miguel made a name for himself as a talented musician. H