Growing and scaling a single‑location coffee business is a challenge for even the most savvy business owner. In order to be successful, many cafes look for revenue sources outside their four‑walls to compensate for what foot traffic alone can’t provide. Roasting coffee in‑house to sell wholesale and retail is one way independent retailers are cutting costs and adding revenue sustainably. Read on to learn how one cafe In Germantown, Wisconsin has grown their business 30% year over year even through Covid, made possible by roasting in house as a Bellwether Coffee partner.
Daniel Levy never set out to open a coffee shop when he took over a building that had previously housed a cafe, but realizing the opportunity, he couldn’t resist fixing it up and reopening as Latitude Cafe in 2019. Despite loving coffee, Daniel and his wife didn’t know much about the coffee industry. In the early months of business, they leaned on their wholesale roasted coffee supplier who helped them learn about coffee preparation, what equipment to buy, and how to set their shop up for success.
Once they had their feet under them, Daniel set his mind on growing his business. Realizing that he was surrounded by competition from other cafes, he and his wife began researching ways to differentiate themselves and give Latitude an identity all its own.
“At some point I told my wife. ‘Listen, This is great, but we're just another coffee shop. There are ten thousand around us, so what makes us different?’”
At the same time, Daniel began experiencing friction with his wholesale supplier.
“We weren't very happy with somebody else controlling our coffee. Sometimes we would run out and we would have to run to their roasting facility to pick up more. Sometimes we would sit on coffee for 3 weeks getting old because it wasn't selling, it wasn't a good experience. It was an everyday challenge.”
Bringing roasting in‑house unlocked better quality and higher revenue.
In order to control their coffee supply and differentiate their brand at the same time, Daniel looked to roasting his own coffee in‑store but found the process of roasting opaque and traditional roasters came with problems they didn’t feel comfortable with.
“I've seen other roasters, and it doesn't interest me whatsoever. Roasting coffee is a dirty job when it’s done the traditional way, and it's full of permits and full of regulations and full of a lot of things that can be harmful for you health‑wise.”
After doing some initial research, they discovered Bellwether’s all electric and fully automated coffee roaster and found it solved each of their problems at once ‑ the desire to move away from the constraints of their wholesale supplier while differentiating themselves from other coffee shops with their own house brand of fresh roasted coffee. “All those challenges went by the wayside with Bellwether. We started controlling our future with coffee.”
Despite his limited roasting knowledge, Daniel was up and roasting with his Bellwether in a matter of hours after delivery.
“Bellwether gave us an entrance to this avenue, and to these great people who know about roasters and who know about roasting so I can produce excellent results right off the bat.”
Latitude’s customers noticed a difference in the coffee quality too. “People love our coffee today. Every day there's a conversation about how good it is, how there's nothing like it, and there's a wow factor for them.”
Daniel also liked that it opened up an opportunity for him to educate his customers about coffee in new ways.
“People see the product from start to end, it doesn't just show up in the grinders. It's kind of a journey I'm taking my shop through with my customers.”
Having their own brand of coffee also seemed to be working to differentiate Latitude from the local coffee market. Daniel began to notice that times when the cafe used to be slow, were now filled with people.
“The shop is busier. There used to be certain hours you were busy, and then you drop off completely. Now, I would say across the board, the shop is busy from opening to closing with very small fluctuation.”
Growing sales 30% through the Bellwether Roasting Network.
It wasn’t long after beginning to roast that Latitude joined the Bellwether Network as a Partner Roaster, where Bellwether customers fulfill wholesale roasted coffee orders for distribution among other cafes. Through the program, Bellwether customers can gain access to an exclusive pipeline of Bellwether roasted coffee clients to grow sales, increase revenue, offset costs, support employee retention, and grow their business beyond the four walls of their brick and mortar location.
Before joining the Bellwether Network, Daniel and his manager were able to share the roasting and packaging responsibilities for Latitude but upon increasing their sales through the Bellwether Network, their production increased so much that they began roasting 12 hours a day, 7 days a week and even added an overnight shift during the busy season.
“We are roasting to the tune of four to five thousand pounds every month.”
Not only did roasting for Bellwether increase Latitude’s sales and revenue, it also allowed them to grow their business and retain their staff during Covid, when many coffee shops were forced to close.
"We're growing 20 to 30% every year which is huge to do through Covid especially compared to other coffee shops around us that we've seen closing down. Our Bellwether orders saved us, keeping us busy when the shop slowed down, when we couldn't even let customers in the door."
Now, 10‑15 people at a time are trained to roast while completing other cafe tasks like working the bar and tending to guests.
“Being a Bellwether partner is great, it keeps the business always working. Regardless of what the physical space is doing, the Bellwether orders make sure our employees are always busy ‑ they're packing coffee or their roasting coffee, that keeps employment. The additional revenue that comes from the Bellwether Network is very important to our business because it covers a lot. It covers the days that are a little bit slower. It covers the roaster, it even covers the green beans we buy for ourselves. It's a good revenue stream, and it helps us be part of the larger Bellwether Community, so there is kind of a belonging to it.”
Not only is Daniel covering the cost of his Bellwether Roaster and his green coffee with the revenue from his increased sales as a Bellwether partner, he also feels connected to a team of experts that his business can call on whenever he needs it.
“I have a team of support behind me with Bellwether. Starting with choosing the beans, getting them to the US, having an excellent coffee team that uses the same machine I’m using to develop those wonderful roast profiles, to getting those beans on time to me, to making sure we have the appropriate profiles on our machine before those beans even arrive, and allowing us to control the final product.”
“It's part of our ability to leverage your resources, your capital, your talent. I'm not going to go and develop profiles when you have the best profile makers in the world available. It's silly to go and try to do that.”
A boundless future for Latitude.
Now, Daniel says his vision for Latitude has expanded beyond what he ever thought possible.
“The vision for the company was to be just a normal coffee shop and just have the normal revenue stream for a coffee shop which is very, very restricted by space, by local events, sometime national events like Covid, sometimes world events. Being a Bellwether Partner is allowing me to extend outside of our physical boundaries. As long as Bellwether exists, Latitude has no boundaries because we can reach as far as Bellwether can reach."
Roasting in‑house with Bellwether gave Latitude the ability to control their coffee quality and stand out in a crowded field, while joining the Bellwether Network provided the extra sales and revenue Latitude needed to find sustainable long‑term growth.
"It is the best thing you can do for your business to control your product on the coffee side period. You're not going to do any better going with anything else."
Interested in learning more about roasting in house with Bellwether? Contact our sales team
today to get started.