Ben Filmalter, the father of our Mugg & Bean family, and his wife, Judi, were on a trip to Chicago in the early 1990s when they happened on a little coffee shop on the South Side.
The shop had a remarkably friendly and generous feel about it, so the couple stayed for several hours enjoying the atmosphere and drinking bottomless cups of coffee. They also discussed the possibility of developing something with similar values for the South African market. At the time, Starbucks was making its presence felt in the US market, but the couple felt it would be a while before South Africans would accept the Starbucks concept.
On arriving home, the Filmalters carried on with their lives as usual; Ben as head of a multi-restaurant company, and Judi assisting in the detail of the various units. However, the memory of that comfortable coffee shop never left them. Over time, a concept began to emerge, and Ben evolved the identity and history of the brand. Finding the right launch location was next, and finally arrived in 1996 at Cape Town’s Waterfront.
Our first restaurant opened in September 1996 and, because it combined the values Ben and Judi had experienced in Chicago with their own personal values, the restaurant was an immediate hit. Franchising began in earnest two years later, with restaurants opening in Durbanville, the Cape and Johannesburg. An immediate flurry of development followed and restaurants popped up all over the country with similar success, clearly indicating that our philosophy of generosity was working.
Franchisees around South Africa were buying into our culture of generosity and customer focus. The memories of the early days in the restaurants in Cape Town were dominated by long working hours and long lines at the door. People could not get enough of the generous portions, giant muffins and bottomless coffee.
Restaurants have also sprung up in Namibia and Botswana, as well as the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia, ensuring that our little philosophy of generosity has found a home throughout the world.