What does it take to build and scale a successful coffee shop brand? Kyle Glanville is CEO and Co-founder of Go Get Em Tiger, a celebrated specialty roaster and café group in Los Angeles. The US Barista Champion speaks to 5THWAVE about the founding principles of his brand and how the business painstakingly crafts each customer’s coffee ritual across its ten stores
Kyle Glanville, CEO and Co-founder, Go Get Em Tiger
What are the founding pillars of your brand?
The name ‘Go Get Em Tiger’ is a throwback to an American phrase that has largely dropped out of the lexicon. It’s something that a parent would say to their child for encouragement before they go to school or play sports.
Our intention has always been to deliver truly great coffee to a wider audience and perfect the coffee ritual. That’s why the design of the Go Get Em Tiger brand sprung from the heart and centres on accessibility and fun.
Our brand speaks to how the coffee ritual fits into your day. Whether you’re going to give a speech to the UN, compete in a cycling race or perform brain surgery, it doesn’t matter who you are, if you’re a coffee drinker you’re going to get coffee first.
It’s very intentional that there are no tigers anywhere in our branding and there never will be as long as I’m CEO. That’s because our brand is about embodying the spirit of the phrase and what it represents.
I honestly think we’re at our best when we are speaking from the heart, when we’re conversational with our customers and when we’re perhaps not as slick as when we try to present ourselves like a monolith. We want to be more of a friend who happens to be an expert in coffee.
“I honestly think we’re at our best when we are speaking from the heart”
What’s most important about how customers perceive your brand?
We believe that if you are genuine in your service and you’re offering is truly exceptional, people don’t need to be told that it’s exceptional – it will speak for itself.
We want people to feel welcome to peek beneath the hood of our brand. We test our water, dial in our brews and use a refractometer to ensure the best quality in the cup. The most devoted cafés do many of these things, but I don’t think there are many that take the same measure of quality control as we do daily.
It’s about the little details when serving customers, such as how you place the cup on the counter, how you pour the filter coffee and making sure service is consistent and efficient. All these add up to the experience of quality and we want customers to feel they absolutely belong.
What processes ensure your brand is consistent across your estate?
As a founder and CEO, you want to build a company around your strengths and set up the team to complement what you’re good at alongside areas where you need more expertise.
For us, it came down to intuitive brand building, our menu, café design, employee culture, recruitment and growth. For now, I’m still the waystation for most brand choices and I draft many of the communications that we put out into the world. We find speaking out on matters of social justice incredibly valuable, even at the risk of blowback from our customers.
We try out new things to see if they work, if they don’t, we go back and try again. Each new café is like going out on tour with a new album. I want our brand to continue shooting from the hip, taking artistic and commercial risks to remain relevant.
So many brands lose their spine over time and start doing focus groups because they stopped trusting in themselves. I try to remind myself not to go down this route at every opportunity I get.
The Go Get Em Tiger café at the Music Center plaza in Los Angeles
How do you ensure your brand standards are adhered to across the board?
We have super-clear quality control (QC) standards, and each store is evaluated in three different ways. Firstly, there is a peer evaluation at least once a week where any member of the staff who visits a café completes a light form about aspects such as music vibe or service.
Then there’s the management QC, when the director of café operations visits to make sure the drains are clear, all the equipment is functional, the bathroom is immaculate and the lights function.
Finally, we assess the beverage and service quality where a former barista comes in and measures all the coffee outputs and scores, the quality of our beverages, measures the speed of service and gives feedback on exactly what’s happening. All of this is factored into how we reward our managers at the end of each period.
These standards are just as important as profit and loss (P&L) when it comes to how we bonus staff. I’m not really a money-focused person, but I do look at the P&L as a measure for how our service was delivered over the last period.
Things like revenue are impacted by how well you delivered service and delighted your customers. Whereas things like the cost of goods and labour are an output of how well we managed ordering and scheduling. Rigorous QC standards that are constantly affirmed and reaffirmed, holding people accountable to their P&L, making sure we do a postmortem at the end of every period and evaluating what works and what didn’t is how we get things right.
What’s next for Go Get Em Tiger?
We’re opening a drive-thru which is really exciting. Drive-thrus are often dreary places that people use when they don’t have time, so I’m excited to amp-up the customer experience by making it experiential and bring all the delight of our brand to this setting.
This article was first published in Issue 12 of 5THWAVE magazine.
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