As boutique hospitality group Grind sets its sights on the US market and further growth for its direct-to-consumer business, World Coffee Portal speaks with founder and CEO David Abrahamovitch about the brand’s ongoing evolution, teaming up with Soho House and staying true to its London roots
Grind founder and CEO, David Abrahamovitch | Photo credit: Grind
Since 2010 Grind has grown from a coffee shop into specialty coffee roaster, cocktail bar and restaurant – how would you characterise the business’ identity today?
On the back of our pink coffee tins, we describe ourselves as ‘a coffee company, born in London’. As simple as that is, that’s where we began, and I think that still very much captures who we are today.
We started with a single site in East London, just selling coffee and a few pastries. The business has grown since then to lots of locations, many of which have a big focus on food and alcohol. We also we have a big coffee roastery which roasts for our cafés and our customers at home, who buy through our website and grocery partners like Waitrose.
We also supply some of the world’s leading venues, most notably Soho House, who we supply worldwide. So, while the scope and scale of what we do has grown enormously, we’re still proud to be a very coffee-focused business, which was born and continues to be shaped by London, the best city in the world!
What compelled you to further and develop your premium food and alcohol offer?
Grind has always been about evolution, and fast but organic growth, driven by the markets we operate in and feedback from our customers. We originally added cocktails because people didn’t want to leave Shoreditch Grind at 6pm, but they also didn’t want to drink more coffee – and also because we realised that when you used our coffee to make an Espresso Martini, it was amazing!
Once we became known for cocktails as well as coffee, and after we’d opened a site in Soho with a dedicated basement cocktail bar, it felt like the next natural step was to broaden our food offer, so we opened a larger location in London Bridge with a full kitchen, the first of what we call our ‘cafés’, rather than our smaller locations without kitchens, which we call coffee shops.
Getting these new areas right was tricky and took a lot of investment in both kitchen equipment and licensing for alcohol sales, but it allowed us to trade much longer and to grow the scale of our individual locations. This increased the size of the business, awareness of the brand and was a crucial part of enabling us to raise investment.
“Our direct-to-consumer business via our website is now a bigger part of our business than the high street”
E-commerce and coffee at home became important sales channels for operators during the pandemic. How does Grind view these channels going forward as in-store trading restrictions have ceased?
Our direct-to-consumer business via our website exploded in the pandemic, so much so that it’s now a bigger part of our business than the high street – and we continue to see this part of the business grow.
How did your partnerships with Soho House develop and what have been some of the business benefits?
Soho House have been a great partner – we supply coffee for use in their houses and pods for their hotel rooms all over the world. They purchase a huge volume from us, but more importantly, it helps us to be introduced to their 160,000 members globally.
Grind's new store at St Pancras Station, London | Photo credit: Grind
Has premium hospitality become a trickier proposition during the cost-of-living crisis?
It’s a challenging time for sure, with input costs of virtually everything we buy increasing by levels which we’ve never seen before. Of course, consumers are also being squeezed with their own mortgages, energy bills and shopping bills going up, so it’s a tricky time where you need to pass on some cost increases but need to be mindful of consumers too.
Where would you like to see Grind in the next 12 months?
We’ve got a huge amount going on: we just launched a new store in St Pancras station, right next to the Eurostar terminal, and we’ll open at least one more location this year. We also just launched our coffee pods and beans in Waitrose supermarkets and plan to launch into other major retailers.
In addition, we recently completed the acquisition of Bottleshot coffee to accelerate our entry in the ready-to-drink coffee space, and we’ll be launching our new range of Grind cans very soon!
This article was first published in Issue 15 of 5THWAVE magazine.
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