Building Community Coffee Shops
Published: Friday, October 11, 2013
Updated: Wednesday, October 9, 2013 21:10
If you’ve ever been to Georgetown’s coffee shop of choice, you’ve probably noticed Saxbys’ excellent customer service and ideal atmosphere for studying or hanging out with friends. These are two things on which Nick Bayer, founder and CEO of Saxbys, prides his company on. Saxbys already dishes out 15,000 cups of coffee, lattes, smoothies and frozen yogurt every day, and this company and its leader show no signs of slowing down.
When and how did you decide you wanted to start a chain of coffee shops?
I got involved in the coffee business about eight years ago. The reason I got involved is not because I was a coffee head or a coffee snob or anything like that. I was sort of a business junkie. I was very entrepreneurial, and my first-ever coffee experience led me to getting in this business. It wasn’t because I had the best latte ever or saw the coolest latte art — it was because I immediately fell in love with the great vibe of a cool coffee shop.
What distinguishes Saxbys from other coffee shops and coffee chains?
Most people try to distinguish themselves on product, but we actually try to distinguish ourselves first and foremost on people. We like to hire friendly, outgoing, nice people that want to give great customer service. We feel like we have as good a product as anybody in the industry, but we know we have better customer service and we think that’s why our business does as well as it does and why people keep coming back and supporting the Saxbys brand.
Is Saxbys involved in any community outreach programs?
We have been philanthropic before we were profitable. We always say yes to a charity. If a charity asks us to get involved, we won’t always write huge checks, but we will always at least donate a giftcard or a coffee basket. Corporately, we are huge supporters and corporate partners with Big Brothers Big Sisters. If you pick up a bottle of water, we specially designed a bottle of water and created a program called Thrive by Saxbys. That water is sold exclusively at every Saxbys across the country, and for every bottle of water that is sold, we donate 10 cents to Big Brothers Big Sisters. I care deeply about the organization because I have been a Big Brother for seven years, and I’m actually on the board of the organization. We partner with them corporately, and then each of our franchisees partners with local charities that will do good for their individual communities.
What is the origin behind the name “Saxbys”?
I wanted to have a name that was easily pronounceable, obviously non-offensive, but unique. Saxbys came from a creative brainstorm amongst me and a couple other people. We looked at things like Starbucks and Saks Fifth Avenue and Tiffany’s and companies that exuded a persona of quality, and we just played with letters.
Do you have any advice for anyone who is interested in entrepreneurship or starting a business?
For people who are looking to start their own business, you can never get enough experience. I should have, in retrospect, gone and worked for Starbucks for six months, nine months, 12 months, learning the business from the inside from a great coffee company. If you want to work in the sandwich business, I would recommend you go and work for a sandwich company you hold in pretty high regard. You can never learn enough on what I like to call somebody else’s dime.
How do you see Saxbys expanding or developing in the coming years?
We’re trying to grow on brand recognition that we’ve developed in D.C. and Philadelphia. Are we looking to become a national and, one day, an international presence? That would absolutely be very cool. Are we looking to eclipse Starbucks and become bigger than them? No, honestly that’s not one of our goals. We’re looking to be a neighborhood coffee shop that values our people and the people that support our coffee shops, in as many places as Saxbys can successfully do that.
What makes you the most proud of your business?
What makes me most excited is seeing the next generation come about because of Saxbys. We have franchisees in Ohio that are putting their daughter through college in no small part based on the success of their Saxbys locations — and her goal when she graduates college is to come and own her own Saxbys. Seeing those franchisees being able to support their families and put their kids through colleges and seeing all these young people embracing Saxbys as a daily part of their routine motivates me to continue to grow this business.