A Unique Coffee Blend for Every Restaurant (Business Brilliance #14)

26 September 2019 | 15 Comments

During a recent trip to Kansas City, we enjoyed several delicious brunches. I noticed a trend at every restaurant: They each had their signature blend of coffee, all from a local place called The Roasterie.

As I learned more about it and realized just how many restaurants had their own blend, the more I admired the approach. I’d break it down into a few ingredients:

  • It starts with a coffee company that people trust, a place that restaurants want to be associated with.
  • Restaurants don’t want to go through the trouble of making their own coffee (just like they don’t do their own laundry for napkins and tablecloths–they’re in the food business, not the laundry business). The TV show The Profit displayed a few examples of this as well; Marcus loves connecting companies with co-packers.
  • Restaurants do, however, like having things that are unique to them–things you can’t get anywhere else. Especially if they are part of the process of selecting the blend, potentially creating it so it matches the types of food they serve. It shows that they care about the things they serve.
  • With such a wide variety of signature blends, customers have a reason to try each restaurant’s coffee. It’s also an opportunity to build customer loyalty if you have a customer’s favorite blend.

I’m not a coffee drinker, yet even I was curious about the differences between the blends!

While it’s somewhat similar to having your company logo printed on a water bottle, I think it’s a different level when a company is part of the selection process to create a one-of-kind item. So I’m struggling to think of examples from other types of products and businesses.

Perhaps one example–in a way–are products with intellectual properties. Like, the game Love Letter has a variety of IPs associated with it (including some that are out of print–I’m looking at you, Lord of the Rings Love Letter!) Each version of Love Letter has slight differences above and beyond the art, which I think is important–it doesn’t resonate the same way if you just slap an IP and some movie stills on the cards.

One interesting element about the Roasterie approach is that it’s an exclusive that doesn’t feel like an exclusive. Sure, at Jamey’s Crab Shack, you can only buy our special Jamey’s Crab Shack Old Bay Roasterie Blend. You can’t get it at Biddy’s Kibble Hut. But why would you want to if Biddy has his own blend for you to try? Plus, you can always buy every blend directly from The Roasterie (another win for the restaurants, as they’re making passive revenue from those direct sales).

So the parallel to the board game world might be if game stores or conventions could create their own promo packs based on specific cards they select from the publisher. Even then, I’m not quite sure it works, because those same cards are already in the game (just like the coffee beans at The Roasterie exist before they start mixing them into signature blends). Why would a game store want a signature mix of Scythe encounter cards when all of those cards are already in the game?

There’s something here, but I just can’t put my finger on it. What do you think? Can you think of other examples (real or hypothetical) of “signature blends”?


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15 Comments on “A Unique Coffee Blend for Every Restaurant (Business Brilliance #14)

  1. I think the issue for tabletop games is that there is an aesthetic and a mechanical end of things, and the mechanical end is not a matter of taste. So with the coffee, if you like one coffee while everyone says another one is the ‘best’ then that’s fine. But if there was a game like Keyforge where some stores got to pick their cards and one store’s proprietary blend was way better than all the others people would care, because that’s the blend that factually wins. Magic the Gathering works because every store in the world can sell the cards to make up the deck that wins the pro tour, making it so that one store has a stamp on that deck would be much trickier wouldn’t it?

    I think, as has been suggested, this would most likely work as an aesthetic thing in tabletop games, alternate art and names localized to people and locations. The most obvious example is Monopoly, where there is a version for every major UK city at least.

  2. (turns out this didn’t post, so Im re-posting it now a few weeks later)

    Super interesting. I think this would work well for a game that is easy to create additional content for without ruining the balance of the game.

    Things like Codenames, just one, or similar party type games where you can just generate more words or images but doesnt throw off the “balance” of the game, like for instance a special culture in Tapestry that you can only buy at Mox Boarding house here in the seattle area. That bridges the gap of too exclusive in my opinion (though I would still buy it)

    I could see it with my game coming to Kickstarter Oct 1st (Vamp on the Batwalk) where the characters in the game dont do anything but represent a suit. And you only play with one character per player count, so it can really be anything that represents a suit.

    In that instance I COULD make a custom art vampire for mox boarding house without affecting the gameplay at all. 

    – Cody Thompson

  3. As a consumer exclusives are interesting. Collectors might want just the art. I personally buy promos that add a little something to the game, not just reskin part of it.

  4. Hello Jamey,

    I think the recent KS version of Pret-A-Porter comes close to this. They had different subset of the game cards from different designers. So you can replace a sub-set of the deck with the same cards but with different artwork, similar to same comic having exclusive covers for different retailers.

    You might be able to apply the same for different retailers. You could let them pick a card from the game and have it named after them and have a matching artwork. If your game has 30 cards, ideally you could get 2 versions of 30 cards designed, one with “Web store” and one with “Amazon”. For Amazon, you use 29 plain cards + 1 Amazon card instead of the “Web store” card (or 30 plain cards + 1 Amazon as promo).

  5. As someone who has great amount of experience in food. Every successful marketing strategy is about something different better unique, I’d say the real genius here is the rotisserie they came up with this idea and sold the idea to all the local stores. In north Central Arkansas a few restaurants buy their desserts from the same baker. In Lexington Kentucky Wallace station and 12 other restaurants get there bread from Midway Bakery.

    My mom made crafts sold from Branson to Houston. Having a unique identifier product and learning how to sell it is the real deal.

  6. I hesitate to comment because we tend to think differently, but then again… I like that :)

    This amps my creative juices. I’ve worked with several kickstarters that had it together. They had every stretch goal ready and tested, art done and expansions available. This could be one more thing they have calculated for.

    What if, a game was created with the custom coffee system in mind? I know you are going to think of how the haters will whine about this, but at some point I tuned them out. Too negative! My feeling on this is that the Otaku behind any game impacts that game far more than a few hundred haters. Cater to the people who LOVE your game.

    Without overthinking it, John Doe makes a game and has 30 promo cards ready. He has one for Man vs Meeple, Rahdo, Watch it Played, Dice Tower, etc. It’s a solid nod to some fantastic people in the industry and as a gamer, It’s like a geocache of goodies to suss out.

    On a personal note… you don’t drink much wine and you don’t like coffee much? I’m starting to question my loyalties lol.

    Don’t go to Italy if you don’t do coffee and wine ;) 10am brunch with a decanter of casa rossa or an entire pot of coffee distilled into a thimble of java adrenaline for breakfast is what makes my second home great!

    Thanks again for yet another great article. It’s rare I don’t feel compelled to do a thing or adjust a thing after reading them.

    1. Dave: Thanks for sharing! I was thinking somewhere along those lines–a product designed for this level of customization. Maybe kind of like Keyforge, but with retailers and conventions selecting the combinations for their decks.

  7. Jamey,

    As a new designer, I wanted to thank you for all you do for people like myself and for the industry. Your openness and transparency have provided deep and meaningful learning opportunities that have been critical for my development.

    Vielen Dank!

  8. I’ve noticed that some restaurants with the new Coca Cola dispensing machines offer “signature” mixes. e.g Wendy’s has Dave’s Select, Moe’s and Zaxby’s has similar.

    Look at all of the varieties of Monopoly that are geographic centric. What if Seize the Bean or Brew Crafters offered a localized version of the game featuring local coffee houses of brew pub’s microbrews.

  9. “signature blends” is also difficult for me to imagine. Feuerland Spiele did something similar for the shops. You know the excellent 2-person game “Fields of Arle” by Uwe Rosenberg, whose father married in the village church of Arle? In this game the players have the possibility to go on journeys (of course in East Frisia, where Arle is located). It is a rural area in the north of Germany. Frank Heeren, the owner of Feuerland Spiele, has asked traders if they would like to have “travel destinations” from their location as promos for their customers. Each of these “travel destinations” offers different advantages when used in the game, only the name of the city is printed on it. They are available from retailers in over 50 cities in Germany, and some in Austria and Switzerland. The rules for the shops: No shipping, just one tile for each traveling customer.
    And the players traveled, specifically visited shops on holiday trips, sent friends or relatives in the respective places to the retailers. Almost every German knows someone in Berlin, and so numerous visitors came to my board game shop, even those who don’t actually play. A great action, which looks for its-same. Sure, you could have printed the names of the shops instead of the city names, but that wouldn’t have fitted into the game – and it wasn’t necessary.

    1. This makes me want to visit these areas and get those cards! Why doesn’t this happen more? Sooo much opportunity here to make games more alive and part of our day to day.

  10. So I’m a big fan of the game Pairs. I like it so much that I have bought and shared copies with many friends. It is basically a pyramidal deck of cards (one 1-card, two 2-cards, up to ten 10-cards) and can be used to play a variety of games, many of which are easy to teach and play, fun, and take up little space on a table or in your backpack.

    As a deck of cards, it has been offered with a whole bunch of different art. There is a tree deck, one by John Kovalic deck, Name of the Wind decks, one by Echo Chernik and many more. It would be super cool to see a localized Pairs deck – say a Gen Con version, or perhaps a local gaming pub could get their own decks for their customers to use and for them to sell. In fact, this reminds me – I’ve been meaning to contact the publisher to see if they would be willing to do a custom deck. I’d love to have a custom deck that I could share with my gaming groups.

    1. Pairs, like Love Letter, is great, as you can retheme it simply by using different art. So much so that a few years ago at a convention I ran, we made two versions of Love Letter and one of Pairs using custom fan art for the IP of the convention (all of the art was done by volunteer artists). Because we hadn’t got permission either to reskin the games or to make the fan art, we knew we wouldn’t be able to sell copies of the game – they were purely something special just for our convention – so only a small number of sets were printed so that they could be played in the games room during the convention, and that’s all. After the convention, each artist got a copy of the game with their art on it, and the few remaining sets went to the committee for their personal collections.

  11. Oooh I recently saw this. My FLGS has their logo and name on a gloom card that you can get when you buy gloom from them. My understanding is the publisher (or distributors) offered stores the option to get these, I think for free. I thought it was pretty great!!

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