1996 Gloria Jean’s arrives

The US coffee chain Gloria Jean’s opened two stores in Sydney in 1996 and by 2003 was trading in every state in Australia. It was subsequently bought by Retail Food Group and has made a success of its franchised operation. As of 2020, there were more than 300 Gloria Jeans outlets in Australia. Many are located in shopping malls, picking up the day-time shoppers.

Gloria Jean’s was founded in the United States by Gloria Jean Kvetko and her husband Ed in 1979. Beginning near Chicago, the concept expanded throughout the United States. The couple sold the franchise in 1993 for $40 million.

In 1995, Iranian Australian businessman Nabi Saleh travelled to the US with his business partner Peter Irvine. They acquired the master franchise for Australia and in 1996 opened the first store at Miranda in Sydney. By 2004 there were more than 200 Gloria Jean’s stores in Australia and in that year Saleh and Irvine bought the international rights for all countries outside the USA. In 2008, their company purchased the franchise rights in the USA through a subsidiary called Praise International North America.

The name “Praise” was significant. Saleh had become a Christian in 1978 and was an elder of the happy-clappy Hillsong Church. Peter Irvine was also a church member. Gloria Jean’s stores were, at one time, required to have a collection box on their counters collecting money for Mercy Ministries, a Hillsong-sponsored organisation that claimed to support women but, in fact, subjected them to a damaging regime of faith-based “counselling” and even exorcisms.  Hillsong was also outspokenly homophobic.  As a result, activists called for a boycott of Gloria Jean’s coffee outlets, a movement that reached its height in 2012 when the chain contributed $30,000 to the right-wing Australian Christian Lobby.

Perhaps this was one of the factors that led to the sale of Gloria Jean’s to the Queensland-based Retail Food Group in 2014. The group also operates many other food franchises including Donut King and Michel’s bakeries. Retail Food Group continues to control Gloria Jean’s worldwide, with headquarters in Australia and more than 900 outlets in 39 markets. The group has not been without its own difficulties, in 2019 facing an investigation into what a Senate inquiry called ” a particularly unjust business model in which shareholders and senior executives have profited at the expense of franchisees.”

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