by Brian Edwards
Questions for Bob Fish, Biggby founder and social media guy
There are 112 Biggby stores and you're going to open 35-40 more in the next few years. Do you have a concern that coffee shops might become the next passing fad in the quick-serve industry?
No. We have a better product than anyone else. We have a highly addictive, legal product that people like to drink.
You worked in a flapjack restaurant in college and after you graduated. What did you learn slinging eggs and flipping hotcakes that translates to the coffee business?
Everything. The first day I walked in there, they explained to me that the customer was king. Believe me, 10 years of serving two eggs, bacon or sausage, hash browns and toast for $1.99 teaches you to how to be smart in terms of customer service and getting people to come back.
Is that the "Biggby Way" as it's called in your bio materials?
There is no such thing.
Huh? I think you need to talk to your marketing guys.
The fact that you know about the Biggby Way means I don't have to talk to my marketing guys. I ask people - customers, staff, owners - to describe, in their own words, what the Biggby Way is. What comes out of those conversations is what we teach. The Biggby Way is any good experience that happens in our stores. It's whatever you want it to be.
So it's not written down on parchment paper and hung on the walls of every Biggby franchise, then?
I can't imagine anything as trite as writing down what the Biggby Way is. We do have our cultural values: Be happy. Have fun. Make friends. Love people. Drink great coffee. If you do that everyday, you'll be ok.
What if I don't drink coffee?
I know some people don't drink coffee, but I don't really understand it. I have to teach people - and this is my other mission in life - that with coffee, anything is possible.
Let's talk about social media.
Sure. I'm in a natural business for it, but I'm an unlikely person for it.
I'm not that hip. I'm unlikely in one way, but in another way, it's an absolute extension of everything we do here. As CEO, I'm kind of removed from what goes on behind the counter, but Twitter lets me have the same kind of dialogue that I would have with a customer that just came into a store.
You've got like 3,000 followers on Twitter. What's more important with Twitter - talking or listening?
There's no "more important" there. It's a leg of the media like outdoor billboards and radio. Twitter has some real advantages in terms of output and I can do it with a lot of frequency.
Isn't that the problem with Twitter and social media - that it all becomes clutter and noise?
It's only noise if it's irrelevant or boring or trite or just corporate crap. It has to come with personality and tell a great story and not be what you'd expect everyday. So it's a little tricky when you're trying to maintain the output level. I'm not going to get up and post, "Hey I just brushed my teeth." And I'm not just sending out coupons either.
You send out coupons on Twitter?
Absolutely. We have a program called E-wards that have tags on the bottom. We send it out and people can forward it. So we're talking about total proliferation of a coupon.
What's with the frogs in your stores? They seem like a non sequitur to me.
Frogs are happy. Have you ever seen a sad frog?
Did you do some focus group or market study on that?
Market study...are you kidding me?
So you probably didn't do an extensive review to select Lansing's legendary funny-folk-rocker Wally Pleasant as Biggby's jingle guy and pitchman. Why is he the right spokesperson for Biggby?
I don't know the answer to that, but he's perfect. I called him up and said, "I don't know you, you don't know me, but your sh-t is funny. I want you to make up a song for me." He came up with a song called "Biggby Coffee is My Happy Place." He set it to a beat and a rhythm that are different than everything else on the radio. So when his Biggby song plays, you hear it.
Is Biggby Coffee your happy place?