Cheap coffee ruins the start of many days. It’s smarter to spend more on the caffeine that gets one through important meetings. I chose Blue Bottle often when I lived on the West Coast and traveled to Japan.
Several years ago I posted about the best coffee shops. Of that top 5, only a couple survived in SF locations hit by economic cycles and the pandemic lockdown. Blue Bottle is the best-known survivor amongst my chosen 5 and has expanded across the US and found a strong footing in Japan. It’s no longer a neighborhood chain and is now owned by Nestle (NESN). Blue Bottle is so good it gained acceptance in China.
Along with Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods, I found that Blue Bottle location placement signaled a certain type of consumer. The zip codes carrying these brands are desirable with good schools and attractive homes. Blue Bottle and its $4+ coffee give off a premium store experience thanks to how its stores are designed and how they treat customers. I miss that Blue Bottle experience. Buying from Blue Bottle also made me feel better because the company strives to make the world a better place: Link
As we know these economic cycles and brutal wars come and go. I believe companies and organizations that don’t take drastic measures (ie., laying off employees, cutting sustainability initiatives, selling off key assets quickly) will benefit the most once things pick up again. Blue Bottle has weathered many downturns and kept its ‘care’ culture intact.
There’s an obsession with automation these days as a means to lower labor costs. Blue Bottle even withstood a challenge from a robot coffee company Cafe X. Robots will never replace human expression and connection.
It built a loyal following during the worst of times. It will be interesting to see how many companies maintain customer loyalty and attractive core values like Blue Bottle when things get bumpy. Premium coffee will remain popular at any price, as long as there is good customer service resonating from happy employees.