“A Pink Box in Every Kitchen”: How Grind Became Millennials’ Favorite Coffee

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It’s been a tough 18 months for the hospitality industry, but David Abrahamovich looks remarkably good for it. Sipping on a white oatmeal dish at a table in his London Bridge cafe, there is not the slightest hint of the exhaustion that others in his area are complaining about. Maybe they’re good genetics, or maybe he’s just well caffeinated.

Abrahamovich is, after all, the founder of Grind, the London coffeehouse chain that became a hit last year. As the lockdown took hold and cafes closed, Grind ramped up production of its compostable coffee pods, and the company’s sweet pink boxes became something of a pandemic life symbol.

Before Covid, Grind had tried pods but focused on its London cafes, which serve coffee and brunch during the day, and cocktails and dinner at night. When Covid struck, it was already on the verge of a change of focus. The lock pushed him over the edge.

Looking back, the move “looks like a very good decision,” Abrahamovich said, but he admitted he was lucky to be in the right place at the right time. Having closed a funding round nine months earlier, he had already decided to use around £ 1million to expand Grind’s ‘home’ offering, moving to a larger roaster and upgrading his shop by. line.

“We got lucky with a few things,” Abrahamovich said. “Some pink box containers went through just before everything was shut down, and some really crucial equipment was delivered and installed.

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“If the pandemic had happened in January instead of March… that could have been a different story. “

Whether it’s luck or good timing no longer matters: since the first lockdown, coffee pod subscriptions have increased by 5,000%. Grind sells 20 pods per minute and is on track to ship 30 million in the coming year. The company even launched its own coffee machine, designed in partnership with Swedish coffee company Sjöstrand. Annual sales exceed £ 20million.

The lockdown has taken its toll on Grind cafes. “At [the] On Monday [in March 2020] the prime minister said, we recommend that you do not go to restaurants – but it was not until Friday that it became law, ”he said. Rivals immediately began cutting jobs, but Grind waited to see what happened. As a result, it kept its 300 employees throughout the pandemic. It was only last month, after the leave scheme ended, that he made 40 layoffs.

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Abrahamovitch opened Shoreditch Grind, his first cafe, in 2011. It’s still there, in a funny circular building on London’s Old Street roundabout. In another act of good timing, the cafe opened its doors just as a stampede of tech companies sprang into the neighborhood, turning the neighborhood into a ‘silicon roundabout’.

Abrahamovich grew up in this building: since the 1980s it had been a mobile phone store owned by his father, a former market merchant. “My dad and I were literally sitting in this store watching East London change. It was a front row seat, ”he said.

After his father died, when Abrahamovich was 25, he was determined to make good use of space. “I loved this building. There was no way I could just return it to the owner. As creative types invaded Old Street, he saw a gap in the market: the laid back coffee culture of the Antipodes. He called on DJ Kaz James as an investor and advisor: “He was Australian, which made him the most skilled person I know in coffee. “

Grind was never going to be just coffee. Abrahamovich started his first tech company while studying economics at University College London. “Uni ended up being something I did four hours a week around my full-time job,” he said. He still speaks more like a tech CEO than the owner of a cafe. “I always wanted it to be a scalable thing, I think that’s just how I’m wired,” he continued. “I grew up reading [tech website] TechCrunch, don’t read coffee magazines.

That’s not to say Grind is immune to the hotel industry’s other big problem: Brexit. “I am happy to officially say that Brexit is the worst idea ever. I deeply wish we never did.

Did this make recruiting more difficult? “It certainly didn’t help,” he said. “There were times when we wanted to extend the hours of operation and we couldn’t, because we couldn’t physically find people to work in the stores, which is certainly not a situation we have been in. faced before. ”

To celebrate his tenth birthday, Grind published his first book. A modern guide to city life offers tips for making “really good avocado toast”, “killing it during your internship” and “taking care of yourself like a grown-up”. With its sugar-pink blanket and close-ups of houseplants and illuminated cafe signs, it’s a tribute to the prolonged adolescence that characterizes millennial culture.

Is it possible that the brand is so painfully thousand-year-old that it turns off future customers? Abrahamovich looks pained. True, he said, “our customers are people with millennial mindsets,” but he added that the tastes of a generation are not confined to a particular age group. “I think the people of the generation below also adhere to these things, just as the people of the generation above me adhere to these things.”

So far, customers and other brands seem to agree. Last year, Grind signed a deal to supply the chain of hotels and member clubs Soho House (another brand that focuses on the millennial aesthetic), and next year Abrahamovich has plans for expansion. international. “I want a pink box in every kitchen,” he said. Like even the most engaged millennial, Grind is growing.

[See also: “Dark stores won’t conquer grocery delivery”: Beelivery’s Paul Gott on the future of shopping]


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