Once the pandemic hit, Coupa Café, like many restaurants, had to focus on adaptation and survival. Focused on delivering specialty coffee beverages brewed with their own coffee roasted in-house and along with tasty food to go, Coupa opened their first location in 2004.
In March 2020, when the state of California issued shelter-in-place orders, Coupa Café braced for a tough business year. After thinking through ways to drive revenue, the owners, including Jean Paul Coupal, made the call to expand on the grocerant concept they’d been considering; it would allow the café to keep serving customers, keep their doors open and keep staff employed.
What made Coupa Café successful in this evolution was understanding how the world and the industry had changed, and knowing that the business that existed in February could no longer operate the way it once did. It needed to adapt.
So they started by enabling curbside pick-up through online ordering. Leveraging the online ordering and mobile app capabilities of the Aloha platform, they were already set up for success in managing online orders from their customers. But they needed to go a step further to diversify their revenue stream to stay afloat.
What started off as a light-heartedly idealized concept turned into a legitimate reality and path for the future—just three weeks later. The idea was to sell the produce they receive from their supplier directly to the consumer in a more structured way, just like a grocery store, providing greater convenience for their customers. That’s when Coupa Grocery was launched.
Coupa announced it first to their loyalty customer base via email—and it immediately took off. Coupal and his team quickly realized they'd struck gold on a little-known, built-in frustration with both large, online grocery ordering services and physical stores. Simply put, customers wanted a better grocery shopping experience, one that’s quick, convenient and contactless. And Coupa Grocery delivered on all objectives.
Due to the incredible demand in such a short period of time, Coupal saw the need to broaden their inventory from the initial 100 items on the website. Within a month, they doubled their inventory, all of which can be delivered to customers within an eight-mile radius of Palo Alto, Calif. Coupal cleverly repurposed his catering team and used their catering vans as delivery vehicles, allowing more people to come back to work.
To date, over 800 orders containing more than 11,000 different items have been bagged, sorted and delivered to customers with a 97% fill rate. They trained their staff on the completely new system, readying them for the future of the company. “Everybody does everything,” Coupal said. “Because that’s the only way you survive this—by everybody pitching in, helping and adapting at the same time.”
At least for the foreseeable future, the avenue to success and sustainable revenue is Coupa Grocery. Coupal believes that, because they are so boutique and much smaller than large grocery chains, they’re better able to consistently provide higher quality products, manage quality control and provide a more tailored experience for their customers while California continues to slowly open its economy.
Until consumers feel comfortable enough to go out to restaurants again, Coupal doesn’t see a shift in consumer spending habits coming anytime soon. That said, the foremost challenge is figuring out how to build up revenue fast enough to replace the lost revenue, so they can get back to the size they once were.