A Look Into The Success of Mugg & Bean: SA’s Largest Coffee Themed Restaurant

Mugg & Bean is a full-service & on-the-move restaurant and coffee-themed franchise chain that was established in South Africa after the original founder visited Chicago and decided to bring their generous portions and bottomless coffee to sunny SA.

The restaurant is associated with good food, bottomless cups of coffee, a relaxed and warm atmosphere, as well as generous portions of food, and large slices of cake.

Mugg & Bean offers the ideal spot to meet up with family and friends to enjoy a delicious meal, a quick coffee, tasty treats & more.

Now the hundred thousand trillion rand question, “where does the Mugg & Bean story start?? and how did they grow from one initial offering in Cape Town to the multi-million rand success story they are today, in the ever-competitive food industry?


Ben Filmalter, founder of Mugg & Bean

To understand the story of Mugg & Bean more clearly, lets take it back to the early 1990s, when Ben Filmalter and his wife visited a little boutique coffee shop in Chicago where the unique combination of food, coffee and outstanding service made a lasting impression.

The Chicago coffee shop experience made a lasting impression on them, and they felt that this type of restaurant concept was an offering that would do well in the South African market. And based on these initial inspiring ideas, the Mugg & Bean story was born.

Ben was already a seasoned hand in the restaurant industry. He started working at an early age as a cook’s apprentice, and gradually worked his way up until he made it out of the kitchen and into management.

He was involved with various restaurants including Linger Longer, an upmarket Johannesburg-based restaurant he purchased with his older brother in 1979. He subsequently sold his equity share of Linger Longer in 2005 to chef and restaurateur Walter Ulz, and his business partner Carlos de Freitas.

The first Mugg & Bean was opened in Cape Town at the V&A Waterfront in 1996, the restaurant’s unique model proved popular. Generous portions, fast food made from good quality ingredients, the value for money appeal of bottomless cups of coffee as well as being served by friendly staff made the first restaurant a hit with customers.

In 1998, development of the Mugg & Bean concept as a franchise opportunity started to take shape. Franchising presented the opportunity of rapid expansion while at the same time, allowing Ben to retain control over the development and marketing of the brand.

The subsequent years saw many more franchised Mugg & Bean restaurants opening up all over country.

Mugg & Bean’s success over the years was as a result of Ben’s objective to remain innovative at all times, and this was a concept he was committed to achieving.

“We had a very clear vision about how we wanted to operate our business from the very start, and that developed the culture in terms of how the brand was going forward. We knew we wanted to be the best.”

Another important factor that contributed to the success of Mugg & Bean was the positioning, the restaurants are mostly located in shopping malls where there’s easy access to a wide variety of customers. Through clever store positioning, Mugg & Bean attracted an extensive range of people, as they catered to shoppers and business people during the week, as well as to families over the weekends.

Famous Brands Acquisition

In 2009, Famous Brands – Africa’s leading branded food services franchisor which owns Steers, Wimpy, Debonairs Pizza, FishAways, House of Coffees, Brazilian Cafe and others – acquired Mugg & Bean for a reported R104 million.

According to Famous Brands, the acquisition supported its focus on the growth and development of its best-in-class food service franchise brands and on top of that, reinforced its position as a leading quick service and casual dining restaurant franchisor.

”Since its inception we have nurtured the Mugg & Bean concept and steered the business to the leading position it enjoys today. We are delighted to pass the torch to Famous Brands, whom we are confident will ensure that the concept is further developed and its success continued into the future.”

Ben Filmalter on the acquisition by Famous Brands

As of 2022, there are over 250 Mugg & Bean restaurants nationwide and they can also be found in Kenya, Botswana and even the United Arab Emirates.

Mugg & Bean

The success of Mugg & Bean has turned Ben Filmalter into something of a legend within the food service industry of South Africa, he has demonstrated an unswerving genius for recognising exactly what consumers want and will pay for.

Advice to aspiring entrepreneurs??

“The most important factor is that they have to have a vision. If you do not have a vision, what are you shooting for? Are you just going to be dragged along? Or are you going to make your dreams come true?”

Ben Filmalter


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