Goodbye CBTL: Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf closes all San Francisco locations

After closing their remaining location, Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf no longer has a presence in San Francisco.

According to a Yelp post, the last Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf location (Embarcadero) in San Francisco closed sometime in October 2016 when customers walked up to the location only to see a sign saying that they were closed for good.


The news follows the recent closures of the two other Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf branches, the Market St. location and New Montgomery location, back in July. At the time, I was informed by a barista of the now-closed Embarcadero franchise that those two were impacted by a “rent” issue; that both leases came up at the same time and both were having the rents hiked. If you live in the Bay Area, you know that’s not a hard-to-believe.

That, in itself, is not necessarily newsworthy. It is, when you put it together with all twelve Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf locations closing in Manhattan in October. Yes, all twelve of them on one day. This is what a CBTL spokesman told the West Side Rag:

“International Coffee & Tea, LLC regrets to announce that all of the franchised The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf® locations in Manhattan closed on October 1, 2016. We value the brand’s loyal following in the Big Apple and intend to swiftly bring The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf® hand-crafted coffees and teas, including the world famous Ice Blended® drinks, back to New York City. It is our hope that when The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf® returns to New York, the new store owners will deliver the products and service our customers have come to expect through their experiences at the other 1,000+ company-owned and franchised The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf® locations around the world.”

I couldn’t find any statements from Coffen Bean & Tea Leaf regarding the San Francisco closings. Not that we need it. With the New York shutdowns as context, it really shines light on the closing of the SF stores – all three locations within 3-4 month.

This wasn’t just a “nothing to see here” rent increase push out. This wasn’t a franchise owner calling it quits, this was clearly a directive coming down from corporate. Why this was coming down from above remains to be seen.

I lightly alluded in another post that the company felt the brand was being diluted by owner franchises; that there was no consistency from store to store. This was especially true when it came to their loyalty programs — a few stores had a punch card (SF), others used the App Card to keep track (NYC) while others didn’t (Los Angeles). On top of that, some of the stores didn’t accept CBTL-branded giftcards and you couldn’t return online purchases to individual stores.

It’s like a stock buyback. With the closure of all San Francisco franchises and all the ones in Manhattan, not to mention other locations, this is an opportunity for the CBTL to realign and refocus their brand.

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