Here’s how Founding Farmers, a scratch kitchen and grocery market in Washington DC, created a mission-driven coffee program with a Bellwether Roaster.
Background: Founding Farmers wanted a coffee program as farmer-focused as they were.
Founding Farmers, a farmer-owned restaurant group and grocery market with headquarters in Washington, DC, has been a pioneer of farm-to-table eating since 2005. With an emphasis on local produce, family-owned farms, and creating sustainable and equitable food systems, Founding Farmers knew their existing coffee program wasn’t aligned with their mission. The team wanted to bring their coffee experience in-house.
“We take pride in making everything we sell from scratch. We had worked with a local coffee roaster for years, but bringing roasting in-house was the natural next evolution. Being able to roast our own coffee was crucial in keeping with our brand and mission.”
Solution: A coffee roasting machine and sourcing partner that offers exceptional quality, ethical sourcing, and a quick launch.
When Daisy Whittemore, the company’s marketing writer, and her team discovered Bellwether, they instantly saw the roaster and green coffee marketplace as a way to achieve their goals without compromising on their mission:
- Differentiation in the grocery space with their own coffee brand
- Uncompromising coffee quality the team is proud to sell and serve
- An easy way to source beans from sustainability- and impact-driven farmers
The Bellwether Roaster arrived at Founding Farmers just two days before the COVID-19 lockdowns, and Ali McCain, the woman taking over coffee roasting, couldn’t believe how smooth and user-friendly the roasting experience was compared to traditional roasters.
“Our former roaster showed us the roast process and it went way over our heads, making it seem like roasting our own coffee was impossible. With Bellwether, anyone can roast coffee and it’s not the same level of quality—it’s better. I was the massage therapist for the company and my department was eliminated due to the pandemic. I became the coffee roaster two days later. Bellwether made it possible for me to learn really fast.”
Results: Unique grocery market coffee, skyrocketing sales, and a customer experience that finally matches their brand.
Founding Farmers was able to get started quickly and tweak their roast profiles to match their high standards and coffee goals.
“You can tweak it any way you want: light, flirty, fun, sultry. We can change our espresso as we like, even just a little darker or lighter can be a huge difference in flavor. We created a custom signature blend, too.”
After just a couple of weeks past the pandemic lockdowns, Founding Farmers launched their own brand of roasted coffee in their new grocery market.
“Without dine-in available, delivery became our main focus. We launched a grocery market and the coffee is a great thing to sell in there that was made by us. It’s a real point of difference between us and our competitors.”
Founding Farmers purchases all of their green coffee from the Bellwether Marketplace, which helps the brand abide by their sustainability, traceability, and farmer-focused principles.
“We only get our beans from the Bellwether Marketplace. That’s another point of alignment—knowing the farmer, having a connection with them, not buying from the big distributors. And we’re able to take that information on the farms and talk about it with guests and through our marketing.”
When the restaurants reopened, servers felt a sense of pride over their coffee program and customers responded with explosive excitement and appreciation.
“We’ve seen sales skyrocket because our servers are so excited, and they pass that information onto the customer. We’re seeing guests excited, coming back, and drinking our coffee over and over again, which didn’t happen before. We’re also seeing an increase in the average check because we’re selling way more french press coffee and espresso drinks.”
Despite the chaos of radically shifting business models to adapt to changes caused by the pandemic, Founding Farmers has been able to keep track of the business metrics that are important to them.
“We love the analytics we get with Bellwether. We track so much data across the company. We like to know where every dollar is going. The ability to track our roasting and costs is really helpful to us.”
Most importantly, Founding Farmers is thrilled to finally have a coffee program and coffee retail brand that enhances their mission, ethos, and business objectives.
“We always say we’re mission over profit. Our company is majority-owned by farmers, and there’s no question that Bellwether as a company is very aligned with ours. Bellwether’s Tip The Farmer™ program, how they work with farmers, their focus on community and taking care of people—it just aligns really nicely.”
The team interviewed consisted of: Daisy Whittemore, Marketing Writer; Melinda Koepke, Beverage Operations Manager; Ali McCain, Coffee Roaster; Chandler Raffa, Director of Bakery Operations; and Meaghan O’Shea, Director of Marketing & Communications.