In this episode of On Foodable, Paul Barron sits down with Bryan Meehan, CEO of Blue Bottle Coffee, at the Winter Fancy Food Show in San Francisco. The two chat about specialty coffee, company expansion, and branding among other topics.
In 2011, Meehan—whose retail experience comes from co-founding UK-based brands like Nude Skincare and Fresh & Wild, an organic market which is now owned by Whole Foods—came across James Freeman, founder of Blue Bottle Coffee Company and said: “What are you doing with this company? I love it. Can I help you?”
Fast forward to today and Meehan has been the CEO of Blue Bottle Coffee Company for over six years now and has been hard at work growing the company to 60 locations in collaboration with James Freeman. The fast expansion boost was partially thanks to the Nestle acquisition that took place in 2017, but Meehan assures Blue Bottle works as an independent entity under that larger umbrella and the company’s growth has not come at the expense of product quality.
“A lot of companies here worry about with growth ‘If I could just maintain what I have then everything is going to be fine…’ but as you know you can’t succeed long-term with that so we push ourselves to try and get better every year,” says Meehan.
“With scale, the worry always with a company like Blue Bottle, and I see it in the industry today… with scale it’s so easy to just to take shortcuts and compromise on quality,” says Meehan. “We need to go back to focusing on why we started in the industry and in specialty coffee is that these products have got to taste delicious. If it’s not delicious we shouldn’t do it.”
Blue Bottle has taken its brand internationally with 10 stores in Japan and recently announcing it’s getting ready to launch its first South Korea location in Seoul.
Watch the episode above to learn about who is operating their stores internationally, the tech being used for Blue Bottle’s latest retail products, and how quality control affects the brand’s business decision.