Walking into Circle K and the aroma of freshly brewed coffee wafts through the Constant Spring outlet.
“I saw that Jamaica was ready for a full self-serve concept with convenience in its true definition,”— Joseph Mahfood, franchisee for Circle K in Jamaica and the Caribbean
The store is immaculate, teeming with customers looking for a quick snack or drink, and you’re greeted by a warm and friendly smile at the register.
If this was your first time, as was ours, you quickly recognise that Circle K, open 24 hours and ideally located on 7 Constant Spring Road, is not your typical shopping experience.
The Half-Way Tree location was the first of two outlets opened by Joseph Mahood, franchisee of Circle K in the Caribbean. The second was opened at the intersection of King Street and South Parade in downtown Kingston.
“Repeat customers is a good thing. You’re not coming back if you don’t have a good experience; so, customer experience for us, is everything”— Mahfood in an interview with BUZZ.
The Kingston businessman spoke in-depth with the BUZZ team about his motivations to bring self-serve convenience to Jamaica and the wider region.
Mahfood’s journey started in 2018. After completing his MBA, the 28-year-old Mahfood felt unsure about what next to do. At that point, he decided to act upon the knowledge he had acquired about Circle K in Central America while he was in college.
“About a year ago I started the journey, jumped on a plane and flew to Phoenix, walked into their office, introduced myself, said I was from Jamaica and I want to bring you guys to Jamaica. That’s how it started,” he told BUZZ.
The rest, as they say, is history and now, Mahfood and Circle K are moving aggressively to expand across Jamaica.
“Ocho Rios will [have] our first store outside of Kingston,”— Joseph Mafood giving BUZZ the scoop on new outlets across Jamaica in the coming months.
“Basically, I saw that Jamaica was ready for a full self-serve concept with convenience in its true definition. That’s what encouraged us to bring this franchise to Jamaica,” he said.
Circle K is one of the largest convenience store chains in the world with over 16,000 locations worldwide. The concept isn’t totally foreign to Jamaican shoppers, who for decades have purchased, at least once in their lifetime, from a wholesale — the bubbly corners stores scattered across the island.
Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) members are invited to come to the HWT outlet between 10pm and 5am and get a free cup of freshly brewed coffee!— Circle K in HWT, offering perks to police officers on the graveyard shift
“If you look at some of the other countries that are doing it, they have similar industries, such as what we call here in Jamaica, the wholesale. So, you basically shop through a window, there’s no walking around the store and these are the Jamaican corner shops,” Mahfood explained.
But the franchisee in Jamaica and the Caribbean told BUZZ that while the concept isn’t new, Circle K’s delivery is certainly fresh.
“In the other markets that Circle K introduced themselves, it was the same type of thing until Circle K came in, broke those barriers, and said ‘Customers, feel free to pick, walk around and explore as you please’. We strive for three things: great customer service, a clean environment to shop, and fully stocked shelves,” Mahfood said.
Expanding at light speed across Jamaica
A third and fourth outlet is in the pipeline for Mahfood, with Three Miles being the next addition to the growing network of stores.
Mahfood told BUZZ exclusively that Ocho Rios will have the first outlet outside of Kingston, with a pristine shopping experience set for the resort town in the coming months.
“We’re still finalising the plans [for Three Miles]; that’s been challenging due to the roadworks. One of our plans is to have parking lots lined up around the outside of the store and make it all glass. So, customers can park, see right in the store, run in, grab something and go. We signed a fourth lease for Ocho Rios, so the next store after Spanish Town Road, will be our first store outside of Kingston,” he disclosed.
Mahfood further noted that Circle K plans to expand into other Caribbean islands. The young Kingston businessman projects that the region should have over 200 outlets in the next five years.
“So, in Jamaica, we plan on going island-wide and we’re pushing aggressively for just about 60 stores across the country. Throughout the Caribbean, we’re planning for more than 200 stores,” he told BUZZ.
Customer satisfaction ranks high on Mahfood’s priorities, and he beamed as he reflected on the good reviews Circle K has had from customers in and around Half-Way-Tree.
“We strive for three things: great customer service, a clean environment to shop, and fully stocked shelves,”— Joseph Mahfood to BUZZ.
“It’s been great, and I think one of the reasons for [that] is customer service. I’m incredibly happy with our team members and how we’ve been able to achieve this,” Mahfood smiled.
“We get a lot of repeat customers which is a good thing. You’re not coming back if you don’t have a good experience; customer experience for us, is everything. We have great prices, a great variety and the friendliest people in Jamaica!” he exclaimed.
An added plus to shopping at Circle K, outside the amazing food and clean countertops, is the heightened security presence at any time of day.
Mahfood told BUZZ that members of the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) are invited to come to the HWT outlet between the hours of 10 pm and 4 am, present their ID and get a free cup of freshly brewed coffee.