How the CEO of a wildly popular coffee company with 145,000 Instagram followers built a subscription service during the pandemic that mimics the experience of being in a café

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Josh Zad, founder and CEO of Alfred coffee

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When people couldn’t visit their local coffee shops during quarantine, they learned to brew their own “cup of joe” at home. 

Specialty coffee shops have seen a boom in at-home orders, delivery, and subscriptions during the pandemic and it indicates a larger transformation of the industry. Payment processor Square reported three in four coffee sellers continued operations during shelter-in-place orders and saw a 109% increase in subscription coffee sales from March to April.

Josh Zad, the founder and CEO of the self-proclaimed “Instagrammable” coffee shop Alfred, is one of the entrepreneurs behind this at-home coffee boom. He opened his first location on Melrose Place, in Los Angeles in 2013 and has since expanded to nine more shops in Greater Los Angeles, four in Tokyo, and one in Austin. 

The brand is best known by its motto, “but first, coffee” which glows in neon letters on its shop walls and is printed across cup sleeves. Its Instagram account — designed for tea and coffee connoisseurs with a feed of oat milk iced lattes, canned cold brews, and frothy green matcha — has more than 145,000 followers. 

Not since Starbucks’ hey-day has a cup of coffee been an icon in its own right. Alfred’s cups are fashion accessories for the stylish customers who post their outfits with coffee in hand. The brand partners with a different company every month to design splashy sleeves with a statement. Previous partnerships include campaigns with Kylie Cosmetics and Postmates to promotions for the Netflix series “The Crown” and the film “Marriage Story.”

At the beginning of the year, the company released a new website design that awwards.com, an panel that recognizes excellence in web design, said provided “an online experience as unique and superior as their IRL experience.”

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So what happens when a brand that relies so heavily on its “in real life” atmosphere gets closed down by a global pandemic? It incites founders like Zad to innovate — in his case, deliver the aspirational barista experience directly to the customer’s home. 

Zad told Business Insider how Alfred sped up its direct-to-consumer program, released a mobile app, and launched a coffee subscription service during quarantine. 

Delivering the same craft coffee experience at home

Alfred takes a three-pronged approach to its sales channels, focusing on retail, wholesale, and ecommerce to generate revenue. Zad’s long-term goal is to become synonymous with the LA coffee scene and grow into a larger, international brand. 

The company originally planned to launch its coffee subscription this fall, but when the company temporarily closed all of its cafes during quarantine in March, it kicked the initiative into high gear. 

“The minute we closed our stores, it was how can we drive more traffic and continue to affect people’s lives in a positive way?” Zad said. 

The company’s business development group — which consists of a graphic designer, social media manager, brand director, and beverage director — decided to move forward with the subscription service the day stores closed on March 16. They rolled it out to customers just a …read more

Source:: Business Insider

      

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