Executives of International Coffee & Tea, operator of the Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf chain, have some big plans brewing for the next five years.

John Dawson became the L.A. company’s chief executive last month, taking over from former Chief Executive Mel Elias, who moved to the board. The chain also brought in Bill Robards as vice president of store development and promoted Cori Connell to vice president of legal services and general counsel last week.

Dawson said he plans to help the privately held company roll out a plan for an ambitious but disciplined expansion over the next five years.

“We’re putting together an aggressive growth strategy to double our business in the next five years,” Dawson said. “Our goal is to have over 2,000 global stores, we’re over 1,000 now.”

An injection of capital from three equity firms will help fund the Coffee Bean expansion. Boston’s Advent International, Hong Kong’s CDIB Capital and Seoul’s Mirae Asset Private Equity acquired an undisclosed but significant stake in the company in a September deal.

Part of that money will help Coffee Bean focus growing in Southern California as well as internationally, Dawson said. It’s a plan Elias helped push when he was chief executive.

“We’re talking about many millions of dollars coming in to fund our store development pipeline,” Elias said in an interview last year. “The focus will be expansion in Southern California first and foremost. In Southern California, the short-term ability to open 200 more locations is clear and obvious.”

Coffee Bean, which has a presence in more than 30 countries, operates 178 company stores and has 132 franchised stores domestically.

In addition to expanding stores, Dawson said he plans to focus on menu innovations. He declined to go into specifics, but did say the company will focus on growing its tea brand. The emphasis will help differentiate Coffee Bean from competitors and capitalize on the company’s experience and infrastructure with tea.

The effort could be seen as a shot across the bow of Starbucks Coffee Co., which last year acquired tea retailer Teavana and opened Teavana-branded tea bars in New York and Seattle.

“Tea is being more broadly received across the markets we operate in internationally and domestically,” Dawson said. “We’re positioned to capitalize on that because we have strong tea credibility. We have been a tea purveyor for the last 50 years. It gives us the credibility others may not have.”


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