The world runs on coffee among other things, yet not much has changed in the world of coffee besides a Caramel Macchiato or Soy Vanilla Latte. CEO of Saxbys Coffee Nick Bayer has something to say about that. “It’s hard to be great at providing a service that consumers come to you for.” Said Bayer. “It has to be part of your DNA.”
Well it looks as if Bayers’ DNA has a formula that seems to be working. What he calls a hospitality business fueled by coffee has grown from 1 café in Atlanta to 30 cafes throughout the country. When asked how he came up with his “make life better” philosophy he said he’s always liked making people happy and seeing them smile.
“First and foremost it starts as who I am as a person. My greatest strength is that I’m a people person. I love treating people well.” But smiles and positive feelings didn’t help Bayer when he maxed out his AmEx card to create Saxbys back in 2005. He wanted to provide an inclusive, welcoming atmosphere with consistently great products. He didn’t know anything about the coffee business, so he dove in head first and learned everything about it.
Bayer stresses that he isn’t running a technology company but admits that he lives in world of technology and has had to learn how to navigate the waters. “I’m fortunate to have a great team of technology people surrounding me. Where I lack the skills, they make up for it in spades.” When asked how he knows whether or not his techies are great at what they do. “We hire entrepreneurs, and therefore far fewer things in my organization come to me for my approval.”
This hands off approach is common in a nimble tech startup, and Bayer admits this is one of the reasons Saxbys is succeeding at such a rapid pace. There’s no way Starbucks or Dunkin’ Donuts can move as fast as his team of entrepreneurs. And since the Saxbys marketing team uses social media tremendously and even uses Snapchat to get college students engaged, they are entering a market that was never really ventured into before.
“Snapchat is a playful app that lets us show behind the scenes stuff, new products and merchandise.” Said Communications Manager of Saxbys Kara Solarz. “It’s difficult to build up the following because it’s secret and temporary. So we just try to have fun with it and see how we can engage with a new audience.”
Technology has played a huge part in Saxbys success mainly because it has helped transition from a mostly cash business to an app-centric business. “20% of our overall transactions take place on our new app, and 30% on college campuses. It’s more than our cash transactions. Digital media is a big deal for us.” Social media is a great listening tool for Saxbys since they can see praises or gripes in real time, which helps them potentially tweak and iterate much faster than a large chain.
Bayer says they are working on making all product offerings sustainable and Non-GMO. And how Saxbys differs from Starbucks? “We feel like we have the greatest product in the industry. We strive to create the friendliest atmosphere, expertly roasted products, fresh fruit smoothies while remembering our guests’ names, volunteering in the community and never forgetting that we are a community serving our community.”