It was an evening in 1989 when Emmanuel Drivas and Emmanuel Kokoris in search of a late-night coffee first identified the opportunity from which the iconic Coffee Club chain was to emerge.

Unable to find some excellent coffee and a welcoming setting in Brisbane’s CBD, they soon after formed a partnership to open their first outlet on the Eagle Street Pier overlooking the Brisbane River. It was to be a place where people could meet, spend time and enjoy company as it is today more than 30 years later.

Their partnership brought together the meticulous operational skills of Emmanuel Kokoris and Emmanuel Drivas’ entrepreneurship and successful retailing talents. Their aim in establishing The Coffee Club was to replicate the style, décor, and ambiance of the noted European coffee houses while paying attention to excellent coffee and a wide menu. John Lazarou joined the partnership soon after, bringing his exceptional people skills and marketing flair.

Remarkably, the three partners, all sons of post-World War II Greek migrants, and all from Brisbane’s West End, shared a common introduction to the world of business. Leaving school in their mid-teens and working hard, they learned on the job, the keys to building a successful business.

As growth began to reach the limits of self-financing, franchising became the means for super-charging further expansion throughout the country. Consistently delivering on the brand promise of good food, great service and excellent coffee was crucial so that “The Coffee Club” became the natural answer to the question “Where Will I Meet You?” The Greek concept of Philoxenia “being a friend to the stranger” became the entrenched philosophy of Coffee Club hospitality. Extensive philanthropy and generous community support are other distinguishing characteristics of The Coffee Club business and the three original partners.

The acquisition of 50% of The Coffee Club business, now 70%, by Minor DKL, a major international hospitality and leisure company enabled the business to grow to nearly 500 outlets in 13 countries while drawing on the passion and continued involvement of the original founders.

Emmanuel Drivas, Emmanuel Kokoris, and John Lazarou are living proof that second generation immigrants have contributed greatly to Australia’s economic development. Through a long-lasting partnership of diverse talents and impressive entrepreneurship, they built from scratch Australia’s leading coffee retail business which, in partnership with Minor DKL, is now a truly international success story.

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