By Lina Giannarou
You might find him perched on a ladder adjusting lamps on ceilings, mixing paint for store walls or sitting at his desk speaking to people interested in his company’s franchising scheme. You could say that what defines Lefteris Kyriakakis – the man behind the Mikel cafe chain, which has met with tremendous success across the country – is twofold: On the one hand there’s his obsession with perfection, while on the other is his determination to maintain a low profile. He does not grant interviews, he refuses to have his picture taken and he’s known for promoting the idea of teamwork.
Meanwhile, for those who have yet to learn of Mikel cafes, you will no doubt come across one soon. Initially established in Larissa, central Greece, before moving on to northern Greece, the outlets recently began making their way south to the country’s capital and elsewhere. There are currently some 40 cafes nationwide and the number is expected to rise to 70 by the end of the year.
At one point there was a new Mikel cafe inauguration every week, while company records show that three outlets opened in the space of one week in three different cities. Meanwhile, the number of those to have expressed an interest in becoming a Mikel franchisee has exceeded 1,000.
One businessman, who became one of the first Mikel cafe owners in the northern port city of Thessaloniki, says he was greatly impressed by the fact that when he first contacted the company to inquire about franchise opportunities, he spoke directly to its founder. “Before we opened he came to the store. He was there day and night, keeping an eye on everything, from the lighting to how the tables were placed. He has a great team of young people working with him, but he is always around as well,” the Thessaloniki businessman told Kathimerini. “This is something he does with all the stores.”
Members of his team say Kyriakakis is involved in every single company department. “Every time a new store opens he is responsible for adding the final touches and, following each opening, he’s there to ensure that it is running smoothly. He is highly active in terms of the network’s development,” one of them told Kathimerini.
The Mikel cafe chain is a family affair: Working alongside Lefteris are his brothers Miltos, who is in charge of the implementation of architectural plans, and Kyriakos, who deals with the company’s finances, and Lefteris’s wife Chryssa Gerolymatou, who is the company’s development director.
Kyriakakis started out as a waiter at a cafe in Larissa and he would pay close attention to clients’ requests and noted the importance of top-quality service. While the first outlet developed by Kyriakakis opened in Larissa in 2004, the idea for the Mikel chain came about four years later. The concept was straightforward and clear: quality coffee blends, new recipes and impeccable service.
The coffee-making process at Mikel cafes is automated to ensure that the experience is the same at all outlets in terms of flavors. The company has been focusing on its takeaway services from the very start, and its stores open at 5 or 6 in the morning to cater to early birds.
Mikel outlets have met with great success around the country. According to one franchisee, clients appreciate the store design, the quality of the products and the highly competitive prices. “They can hardly believe it’s a Greek firm,” he said.