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PJ's Coffee and the Top 500 logo.jpg PJ’s
New Orleans specialties like beignets and pralines gives PJ’s Coffee a differentiator over competitors.

PJ’s Coffee grows by providing a taste of New Orleans

From beignets to pralines, brand works to provide a little vacation with its cup of brew

PJ’s Coffee, owned by New Orleans-based Ballard Brands LLC, distinguishes itself in the increasingly competitive coffee market with such regional staples such as confectioner sugar-dusted beignet pastries and pralines.

And that formula has led to growth, with PJ’s Coffee ranking No. 434 among brands in the Top 500 with sales of $72 million systemwide, an increase of 23.4% from 2022.

“It's the spirit of New Orleans, and we’re starting to leverage that more,” said David Mesa, chief development officer for Ballard Brands. “We're recognizing the appeal that that has. New Orleans is such a touristy area where a lot of people from across the country come. And there are certain things in items that you can get traditionally in New Orleans that you might not be able to get in your local hometown.”

He added that the focus on New Orleans specialties like beignets and pralines gives PJ’s a differentiator over competitors.

PJ’s Coffee of New Orleans was founded in 1978 by Phyllis Jordan and acquired by Ballard Brands in 2008. Under the direction of brothers Paul, Scott, and Steve Ballard, PJ’s has grown to more than 175 coffeehouses.

PJ’s opened 28 stores across nine states in 2023, the company said, and it plans to open 40 PJ’s locations this year.

“We're on track for that right now,” Mesa said. “We're looking toward bringing in 39 new franchisees with a target of over 85 licenses. And we're actually ahead of schedule on that.” The brand is in 18 states total.

PJ’s is targeting the Southeast region “and kind of working our way up the East Coast, up toward Maryland,” Mesa said.

The company also awards a military veteran each year. In 2023, it gave away one license to U.S. Navy veteran Rob Smith of Jackson, Miss., and he purchased three additional licenses. He plans to open his first location in Maryland.

“The No. 1 reason that we have been successful in our growth has been our marketing strategy,” Mesa said. “The consumer, as we enter a new market, should recognize PJ’s as a locally owned business first and then come to find out that it's a franchise. We develop our franchisees to truly ingrain themselves into the community. That is kind of our grassroots guerrilla-based marketing: to partner with the community — whether it's the church, the schools, the business community — and truly become part of that.”

Besides PJ’s, Ballard Brands also franchises the 47-unit Wow American Eats and four-unit Buena Onda Taqueria brands.

Contact Ron Ruggless at [email protected]

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