People Solutions to Business Problems: How BIGGBY® COFFEE’s Vison Stores are creating a Culture of Care.

Category: Build a Life You Love

By Brie Roper


BIGGBY® COFFEE has a vision to improve workplace culture in America. We believe that most people go to work because they must earn a paycheck to survive, not because they want to do the work they are doing. People all over this country feel that their employer does not care about them beyond the work they do for the company. This heartless workplace environment reduces the quality of life for the employee, their families, and their communities, contributing to chronic illness, domestic strife, and many of the other tough problems we face.


So, how does BIGGBY® COFFEE plan to tackle improving workplace culture? The simple answer is that a lot of our franchise owners are already doing the hard work to care for their employees and create a healthy workplace and in return, they are building a thriving business.


In 2022, the Life You Love Laboratory at BIGGBY® COFFEE partnered with an exceptional group of BIGGBY® Franchise Owners and Store Leaders in what was called the Vision Store Pilot Program. We theorized that a direct investment in the health and well-being of store level employees will have a direct and positive impact on the overall success of the business.


The work done in the Vision Store Pilot program has been in pursuit of improvements in employee retention, employee satisfaction at work and whether the employees could say that BIGGBY® is supporting them in building a life they love. We have been tracking these people-focused metrics next to more traditional sales metrics like cup count, average beverage check, and growth — in other words, we are testing the hypothesis that an investment in the staff and workplace culture is ultimately an investment in the long-term sustainability of that business.


The Vision Store Program has been collaborative effort, seeking out active engagement from BIGGBY® COFFEE Franchise Owners and store leaders because we recognize that LifeLab does not have all the answers. The participants in the program have a big voice in the room and are the kind of people who think outside of the box, enthusiastically looking for new and better ways to do things. These courageous leaders took the work that already exists when it comes to the in-store people practices and examined them thoroughly to find out if there is a better, more effective, more supportive, and loving way of doing it.


After one year of engaging in the Vision Store Pilot there are some learnings we would like to share.


Lesson Learned: Creating & Testing the Barista Motivation Score.


If you want to know, you must ask. What matters to the baristas? What do they care about when they come to work? What do they want from their employer and what motivates them to keep working for BIGGBY® COFFEE?


Twice during this pilot, we asked the baristas who work at the Vision Stores to choose the top 5 things that they want most from their employer to create a measurement that we called the Barista Motivation Score. At our most recent evaluation, the TOP answer by far was “A Healthy Relationship with Teammates,” and the subsequent top responses were a schedule that meets their needs, supportive leadership, good working conditions, and a healthy workplace culture.


The Motivation Score matters because it tells the business owner and store leader what things should be getting the most attention. For example, if what matters most to the employees is that they have a schedule that meets their needs, but the manager is concerned with making sure that each employee gets some sort of personal recognition, there is the chance for an unintentional misfire that could lead to less-than-happy employees.


When we first talked about the Motivation Score, there were a lot of guesses that pay and benefits would have been the top concern by a long shot. The highest we have seen it has been the third most important, though. Sometimes what leaders think matters isn’t what is really motivating the happiness and well-being of the employees.


The best part about the Motivation Score? It was inspired by one of our BIGGBY® COFFEE Franchise Owners that we created into a tool that other Franchise Owners can use!


After testing it out for a few rounds with the Vision Stores, we felt the results were powerful for the Franchise Owners in the group, so we came up with a plan to test the Motivation Score with all of the stores in our system. To our surprise, based on over 560 responses from baristas, the results were mostly the same; having a healthy relationship with teammates was the most motivating factor, followed by salary/pay and several other factors of a healthy workplace such as good working conditions, supportive leadership, and a schedule that meets their needs. What started as an idea, was tested and proven through the Vision Store Program, and eventually became a dynamic tool that all of our BIGGBY® COFFEE baristas can use to indicate what they need and want from a workplace.


Lesson Learned: People-Focused Metrics are Challenging.


It is easy to cram numbers into spreadsheets and graphs. Even someone with the most basic Excel skills can turn sales data into a compelling story with a pretty picture to go along with it. People-focused metrics don’t end up in spreadsheets nearly as easily. We have looked at whether baristas would recommend BIGGBY® COFFEE as an employer to their friends and family, if they feel that BIGGBY® COFFEE is supporting them in building a life that they love, and we’ve even looked at figuring out how much gross sales are produced during a single labor hour. We have been paying attention to things like turnover, tenure and average employee wages and tips. The short version of this story is that we are still trying to figure out how best to measure the impact that a healthy workplace and happy employees can have on the success and growth of the business.


This is a challenge that, so far, remains, but we have learned a couple of things from our first several months.


A business owner who focuses only on profitability will make decisions in the best interest of the numbers. The challenge in finding a true “people-focused metric” is for business owners to make decisions using numbers that will be in the best interest of people.


We know that it is the status quo in our country that a business can be profitable without caring much for the happiness of its employees. We also know that a business can be the most kind and welcoming employer, but if it is not profitable, it will not succeed. A Vision Store has set out to be both profitable and to provide the healthiest workplace culture. They define their success by having achieved wins in both people and profitability.


We continue to create, test, and reiterate on new ways to measure profit and care in the workplace because it is crucial to the employee experience of our baristas.


Lesson Learned: There Is No Finish Line.


The notion that there will be some sort of “Mission Accomplished” moment for becoming a Vision Store went out the window quite quickly. There won’t be a time when the world stops changing and so there will not be an instance when the workplace will need to stop improving. As we saw with the pandemic that began in 2020, the needs of employees and the relationship that they desire to build with their employer can change very quickly, and being adaptable is going to be the name of the game for a Vision Store.


The Vision Store Pilot Program has entered its second year with an entirely new group of more than 30 forward-thinking business owners and store leaders from 21 BIGGBY® COFFEE stores. That’s approximately 300 more BIGGBY® COFFEE baristas who will be a part of a workplace that cares deeply about their wellbeing and is actively making improvements to create a sense of belonging for them. As the program grows, the impact will continue to grow.


Our mission isn’t to reach the perfect metric or create the perfect workplace, then dust off our hands and call it a day. Every Home Office employee, Franchise Owner, and store leader knows that this will be a choice every single day, to create a culture of care in each BIGGBY® COFFEE store. But we are motivated knowing that the ripple effect in our society of BIGGBY® COFFEE leading with love and fostering a sense of belonging at work will be vast, unstoppable, and undeniable.


The workplace will improve. BIGGBY® COFFEE can help.