Offering a novel take on the coffee café, Biggby Coffee strives to add a little fun and some warm vibes to caffeinated beverage consumers’ experiences.
As the coffee generation continually retains its ranks while cultivating new members, a fresh concept arrives to entice caffeinated drink lovers. That model is Biggby Coffee.
Biggby Coffee, which opened its first store in 1995 in East Lansing, Mich., is helmed by Bob Fish and Michael McFall. The restaurant’s concept, “helps coffee-lovers and the coffee-curious alike benefit from a less pretentious and fun approach to the standard gourmet coffee paradigm,” claims the company. Currently the fastest-growing coffee chain in the U.S., there are 276 locations open or under contract across 11 states including Michigan, Indiana, Ohio, Illinois, North Carolina, South Carolina, Wisconsin, Kentucky, Florida, Arizona and New Jersey.
At the forefront of its sales strategy is customer service. “Our goal is to make sure our customers leave in a better mood than when they arrived,” Jamie Stepanian-Bennett, brand sphere vice president, notes. “That welcoming experience begins when the customer walks through the door.” He says Biggby’s training emphasizes engaging the customers as their drinks are being ordered and prepared.
“Although speed of service is a priority, there is still some customer wait time while making the beverages, which we use to get to know our customers,” Stepanian-Bennett claims. “We feel this creates a deeper relationship between the customers and the Biggby team members.” Baristas are encouraged to not only remember customers’ names, but also their regular drink orders. “We want our stores to be places for the whole family to feel welcome, have fun and hang out,” he adds. A loyalty program invites fans to become part of Biggby Nation, which offers weekly coupons, free-drink frequency incentives and a birthday treat.
The store décor is very inviting, Stepanian-Bennett says. “The seating is very open and family-friendly. Biggby is a place for the entire family to enjoy,” he says. “Our owners also opted for a brighter color scheme that incorporates yellow, green, blue and orange to create a happier vibe.” Some stores have even added patios for customers who want to enjoy the outdoors.
Biggby also encourages owner/operators to become more involved in the communities they serve. Whether by attending local chamber of commerce meetings or getting involved with local charities, Biggby strives to help each store become a community staple. “We want to be an organization that’s not only rooted in good coffee, but also deeply rooted in our communities,” Stepanian-Bennett asserts.
Extensive training is provided to franchisees and their baristas. “We provide extensive training for the owners, managers and baristas,” Stepanian-Bennett says. “We want to provide a high level of consistency in our products.”
Biggby Coffee offers a large menu of specialty coffee lattes and mochas, tea lattes and hot chocolate drinks, as well as more conventional coffee and tea beverages. The shops also feature its version of a smoothie, called Crème Freeze drinks. Rounding out the menu are bagels, “bragel” sandwiches, muffins, cookies, donut holes and yogurt parfait. With the exception of the crème freeze drinks, all beverages are available hot, iced or frozen (blended with crushed ice) and come in 16-ounce, 20-ounce, 24-ounce and 32-ounce sizes. Any drink can be customized to the individual’s taste.
Menu item names also add to the friendly atmosphere which include Butter Bear Latte, a coffee drink with caramel and butterscotch, Sugar Bear Latte, with caramel and hazelnut flavors, Chumpkin, a tea latte infused with pumpkin, and Coconut Beach Crème Freeze, a blend of coconut, strawberry and lemonade. Holiday drinks include Sweet Potato Pie Latte and Peppermint Stick Mocha Latte while summertime ushers in such drinks as the Mint Chip Crème Freeze.
Many of the signature drinks are blended with Biggby’s own formulations such as Tenacious Tonic, a sweet smoothie base, White Lightning, a white chocolate sauce, and Mellow, a sweet marshmallow sauce to ensure flavor consistency.
Not just a tagline, Biggby Coffee’s cultural values to, “Have Fun, Make Friends, B Yourself, Share Great Coffee,” are mantras the owners, Fish and McFall, fully embrace and instill onto everyone involved in the company from home office team members to owner/operators and baristas. The coffee franchise operation does, indeed, want to increase its profits by selling great coffee. However, the company also wants to do this while making the world a little better and a little more fun.
Following a philosophy called conscious capitalism, this movement follows the foundations of capitalism including voluntary exchange, entrepreneurship, competition, freedom to trade and rule of law, but also incorporates trust, transparency, caring, integrity, learning and empowerment to its workforce.
“[The owners] are ‘all in’ all the time,” Stepanian-Bennett, explains. “They walk new owners through the steps of entrepreneurship, they attend grand openings and share their passion for coffee with the entire team.” As a way of giving back to the community, charitable organizations are invited to submit donation requests for sponsorships, money donations and coffee/food donations.
Not just focused on the customer, Biggby Coffee wants support its employees in building a life that they love. “With benefits such as a three-month paid leave of absence (after every five years of employment) for full-time employees to very detailed training programs, Biggby Coffee treats its employees like family,” says Stepanian-Bennett. “We really do love what we do.”