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AUSTIN-The Austin coffee wars are heating up–a little bit–with Seattle’s Best Coffee LLC planning to open a series of cafes in Austin and Waco. It’s something of a decaf rollout, compared to Starbuck’s, with Seattle’s Best Coffee and its local franchise partner planning 13 cafes in Austin and three in Waco by 2006.

The first cafe could start pouring coffee as soon as January, according to an announcement from Seattle’s Best, based in Seattle. Robert Gleason, president of RTG Business Enterprises LP, the franchisee, was not available to answer questions about the cafe locations. Overall this year, Seattle’s Best says it has signed commitments to develop 99 stores. Gleason and partner Rick Timmins are the principals of RTG.

Starbuck’s Coffee Co., also based in Seattle, is the dominant coffee shop in the Austin area. It has 25 locations in the Austin area and one each in Temple and Waco.

Seattle’s Best Austin-area stores could range from small kiosk locations to stores in strip centers and regional malls, a company insider tells GlobeSt.com. “You just think of all the convenient places you get specialty coffee today,” he says. “That’s the goal.” Stores in strip centers are 1,500 sf to 1,700 sf with smaller sizes for carry-and-go locations.

The company has targeted Austin because, the insider says, of the area’s “great demos,” as in demographics. Austin has a “great diverse population; college and university, tech business. Great coffee drinking indices,” he says.

Seattle’s Best operates 142 stores nationwide and has eight locations in Dallas-Ft. Worth International Airport and plans to open four at Dallas’ Love Field. The company distributes coffee products to major grocery store chains, restaurants, food service companies, airlines and hotels. It is a subsidiary of Atlanta-based AFC Enterprises Inc., which also franchises Church’s Chicken, Popeye’s Chicken & Biscuits, Cinnabon and Torrefazione Italia Coffee.

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