[JR Cohen, The Coffee Groundz GM mixes it up at the bar. Starbuck's can't match that.]
I learned about The Coffee Groundz from Erica O'Grady who wrote guest piece on Pistachio's blog. It's a good story for my Little Companies. Big Footprints chapter. Here's an independent coffee shop, that has to hold its own against a Starbuck's three blocks away from it in Houston's commercial Midtown section.
The CoffeeGroundz is a modest establishment. There's a couple of booths and 16 tables. There's room for another 10 in the patio. They have an abundance of electrical outlets and free WiFi to lure the digital generation into the place. They keep trying new things to make The CoffeeGroundz a popular hangout and for the most part it seems to be working well. They serve about 400 people on an average day.
To survive these tough times against franchised competition, The Coffee Groundz has to offer more than the big brand next door. This includes serving hot breakfasts, lunches and dinners; both alcohol and Gelato bars and special events.
It also has a Twitter-inspired drive through window, and Twitter is playing a role in helping The Coffee Groundz survive these tough times.
Here's JR Cohen, general manager who is also the guy you speak with when you go to @CoffeeGroundz
Q1. What social media tools do you use at CoffeeGroundz other than Twitter.
We are also very active on Facebook. Our group has close to 600 members.
Q1. How, when and why did you start using Twitter?
We started using Twitter in October. Preetish Nijhawan (a co-owner and co-founder of Akamai) is an angel investor in the San Francisco Bay Area. His cousin, who works at one of his portfolio startups, mentioned that Twitter could be a useful tool for The Coffee Groundz.
Q2. Erica O'Grady has already scooped me in her great post about @maslowbeer using Twitter to place a pick up order, which he then got at your drive-through window. How has this impacted your business?
The Tweet-orders are still increasing, but now we see more variations. Now customers use Twitter to reserve a table/booth, order from the patio, or reserve our place for events.
Q3. How else has Twitter impacted your business?
Visibility, visibility and visibility. We were just featured on CW39, a local news channel, on their news in which they talked about how businesses are using Twitter.
Also we were on The Business Makers Show (radio). @BusinessMakers
Q4. These are tough times for businesses. During tough times do you think it's wise to taper off activities like Twitter? Why or why not?
Actually, no. This is the time to be innovative. Twitter must be used wisely though. It needs someone to monitor it and stay close with the community. The cost of using Twitter is basically a Human Resource cost, and that’s it.
Q5. Tell me about Twitter-related events that are hosted at The Coffee Groundz? How many new customers do you bring in for an event? How many do you retain?
We hold many Twitter-related events. The biggest are the Tweet-Ups. We have had two large events and are constantly having smaller ones, which are quite popular. The last one brought in, over 200 people. 15% of them were new to The Coffee Groundz.
This is a big, big deal. A majority of these people have now become regulars. Twitter has allowed us to pull people from the Greater Houston area – and this is not easy for a standalone coffee shop. I think that, without Twitter and the buzz we have there, it would be impossible to make The Coffee Groundz a destination and have people drive a long way to get here.
The Coffee Groundz is not just a coffee shop or as we say a “Coffee Café” but a “community hangout,” a place where people can congregate and socialize in a safe and welcoming environment. We were inspired by cafes in Italy, but with an American twist. We’re that “place” between a bar and a restaurant.
We serve everything from hot chocolate to whiskey on the rocks, so there’s something for everyone at The Coffee Groundz. We joke that we think of ourselves as the “Cheers” of Houston. “You want to be where everybody knows your name.” That’s really the essence of what were trying to create and we feel that Twitter is a wonderful medium for helping with that creation.
Q6. You seem to have followers all over North America and then still more in Europe. How does this benefit a Houston-based standalone shop?
Apart from visibility and obvious positive side effects like the opportunity to answer these questions for a book and a blog, not much right now. However, as we continue to develop our website for on line ordering of coffee and merchandise, we hope that this visibility translates into revenue.
Q7. Can you tell me another great story about Twitter?
A lot of business connections and businesses have been formed here. A lot of the people here are because of Twitter.
Election night and inaugural day events were posted on Twitter only 24 hours before the event. On Election night we had over 250 people attend. This was a better response than our first Tweet Up!
Another great story is our Food Drive. On the day after Thanksgiving we send a tweet to our followers offering 10% off their total ticket if they brought in a non perishable food item. We were able to raise over 300 pounds of non perishable food products to support our local food bank. This event or the positive effect it had on the hungry in our community couldn’t have happened without the help of Twitter and our Twitter followers. At The Coffee Groundz we want to be a contributing member of the community that supports us.