Philz Coffee CEO Jacob Jaber is wildly enthusiastic when he explains that the company’s new order-ahead app is a revelation for the young coffee store going up against giants like Starbucks — and maybe coffee stores as a whole.
Here’s what it does: when you open it, you get a carousel of coffee choices to order ahead. You’ll have your most recent order, and some of the more popular coffee selections. You then order ahead, go into, and grab your coffee. You can customize your order on the app like you do in the store, explaining what kind of sweetness you want in it and how much cream. You’ll see a picture of the barista that’s working on your coffee.
“We’re gonna be able to customize the experience and make sure that they were able to personalize it a little more, ” Jaber told. “You might be one of our clients that comes on the weekends, when you have time with families and friends, to hang out. But on the weekdays when you’re at work, you’re gonna order via the app. It’s about customers being able to choose the experience. We want to figure out, how do we create a multitude of experiences that serve the customer in the best possible way. These days you can get coffee from anywhere, I believe people should have Philz every single day, and it’s a delightful experience, and it’s super easy.”
Of course, it’s an order-ahead app. Order ahead apps have been around for a few years. So it’s hard to say it’s revolutionary — though it does show the person or persons making your coffee.
Philz said today that the app is now running across all Philz places. The app has been slowly rolling out across most of its stores as it gets that kind of beta testing that you’d expect for soft launches, but you’ll see a couple complaints in the reviews on the App Store that it’s not available yet( it’s been on the store for some time ). Now, it’ll be available in all stores, including those in the San Francisco and East Bay regions, the company said. The front end of the app was designed and designed by Work& Co.
Jaber talks about how there are a staggering number of final combinings for coffee that you’ll get at Philz Coffee locations, and the goal is to boil it down to that little carousel. The objective is an attempt replicate that kind of human feel that you’d find in a Philz coffee store, which raised $45 million toward the end of 2016. A lot of the Philz office sits on the top floor of a Philz coffee shop over in the Dogpatch in San Francisco. It’s clearly trying to be pretty chill and focused on the people stimulating the coffee, and that’s what the app is trying to replicate.
Of course, there are going to be a lot of opportunities to capture more data here as clients order more and more coffee. Philz can drill down onto what are the best cups of coffee, and which ones customers tend to skip or don’t like. And they can try to figure out how to try to move that app forward and make it try to telegraph the Philz experience instead of being a kind of robotic process of ordering on the app with a few taps, strolling in, and grabbing it and walking out.
As we talked more and more at that office, Jaber explained that he wanted to replicate the experience in store where you see your barista inducing the coffee, and perhaps chat a bit about what kind of coffee you like. Indeed, you do find the face of the barista in the app, and you do get to customize your order a bit. But he didn’t seem concerned that this would take away from that experience of coming in and interfacing with normal people with merely an order-ahead app.
“We’re not co-mingling experiences and diluting each one, ” Jaber said. “There’s nothing changing about the Philz Experience in the store, there’s merely a better mobile experience. It’s not like we’re diluting the in-store experience versus the mobile. We’re very conscious about that option. We can probably get more efficiency, but there are different experiences.”
You might argue that an order-ahead app may be a kind of graduation moment for companies looking to scale up their business and ignite growth. And, indeed, there are probably all kinds of experiences. But at the same hour, Blue Bottle for example doesn’t focus on order-ahead and instead tries to create an Apple Store-like experience in metro regions, like a kind of deconstructed vibe in Williamsburg, New York, and a very high-end feeling one over in downtown San Francisco. The afterward, a haven for coffee nerds, has a myriad of stores that aren’t focusing on order ahead.
Nestle late last year acquired a majority stake in Blue Bottle at a valuation north of $700 million. And, of course, there’s the efficient well-oiled machine that Starbucks has built. The argument for a different, more personal coffee chain experience has always been a simple one: if you can get one coffee shop across the street from a fraction every Starbucks, you can capture even a small slice of its $83 billion market cap. Rolling out an order ahead across all stores today — it’s been available in some, but not all — is one step toward construct that passion for Philz into a kind of habit, rather than just a periodic experience during a run break.
“What matters is that each cup is made with integrity in the right way, make use of a person and the experience is personal, ” Jaber said. “Quality is not sacrificed in any way shape or sort. We wouldn’t have done it if it was. It’s still induced the same exact style. The most important thing is to make sure we deliver a great experience.”
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