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Jax Daily Record Wednesday, May 13, 202005:20 AM EST

Bold Bean Coffee Roasters ‘coping’ and innovating

Zack Burnett, managing partner of the Jacksonville coffee chain, adds online ordering, focuses on curbside delivery and plans to add some outdoor seating.

Zack Burnett used the pandemic-forced slowdown to innovate at Jacksonville-based Bold Bean Coffee Roasters and its three Duval County coffee shops.

“Our business is down, but we’re overall coping better than some. We are still able to do business,” said Burnett, managing partner of the 13-year-old business.

He estimates a sales drop of 35% to 40%. 

Burnett’s father, Jay, began roasting coffee in 2007 and the father and son opened their first shop in 2011 at 969 Stockton St. in Riverside, followed by the second in 2014 at 2400 S. Third St. in Jacksonville Beach, and the third in 2016 at 1905 Hendricks Ave. in San Marco.

The company identifies, tests, buys and roasts coffee beans from the world’s coffee-growing regions. It sells brewed and packaged coffee, food, merchandise and equipment in the retail and wholesale markets.

When the state and city issued capacity and service restrictions, the three shops closed in-store service, cut back on staff and operating hours and focused on curbside delivery.

As restrictions were loosened, Burnett chose not to reopen for dine-in because at 25% capacity and social distancing, the stores would be able to accommodate few customers inside.

He said May 11 he would provide some outdoor seating at the Riverside and Beaches stores sometime this week.

“The whole situation has made us get creative with ideas that I think we will be able to carry on with us,” said Burnett, 36.

For example, Bold Bean pursued an online ordering platform that customers had requested for years but the company had put on the back burner in favor of the in-store experience.

“It has gone over really well now,” Burnett said, because it gives customers the option of ordering ahead.

Another innovation is offering larger packages of coffee drinks, similar to beer growlers. That provides customers the option of coming by a few times a week rather than daily. “It’s good for us and it’s good for them and it fills a need,” he said.

A third innovation is on the wholesale side. Bold Bean owns Knead Bakeshop and has been selling pastries and sandwiches in its shops. 

Now, it also is selling freshly baked breads and a rotating selection of flavored spreads, soups and pasta. 

 Burnett said Bold Bean would phase out the soups and pasta and continue to offer the pastries, sandwiches, fresh bread and spreads, jams and jellies.

In another innovation, Bold Bean is positioning to increase sales in grocery stores and to offer tutorials online to instruct customers how to brew better coffee at home.

“We want to provide people really good coffee and all of the knowledge they need so that it tastes the same as it does in our shop,” he said.

Bold Bean employs 50 people at its three shops and in its bakery, roastery and headquarters in Center Point Business Park off Philips Highway in South Jacksonville.

Burnett said the Riverside and San Marco locations experienced more drastic decreases in business compared with its Beaches location because the in-town shops have a higher percentage of regulars who work in the service industry and have lost jobs or had hours or wages cut.

Initially, Bold Bean cut hours for some employees but was able to supplement wages.

After receiving a federal Paycheck Protection Program loan, Burnett said Bold Bean could pay its full staff its normal wages based on the 2019 payroll.

That meant someone whose hours were cut from 35 to 20 hours a week could still be paid for 35 hours.

He reduced work hours at shops, the bakery and in production, although salaried employees did not see cuts.

“We haven’t had to lay anybody off. We made a lot of adjustments to continue to bring in revenue, so we are continuing to keep our head above water,” he said.

“For now we will continue to keep doing what we are doing,” he said, and reevaluate when restrictions are lifted further.

Operating hours have since been expanded to 6:30 a.m.-6 p.m. Monday-Friday and 7 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturday-Sunday, with the Beaches location open until 7 p.m. Friday-Sunday.

Business is improving, Burnett said. “We were taking more of a hit when this came up but things are starting to stabilize and becoming more predictable,” Burnett said.

Online retail sales tripled and then quadrupled. They were a small portion to begin with, although “it’s where our goal was for our program this year, so we’ve met that,” he said.

Burnett thinks business might resume well by July. “I really hope that we are not in the same situation during the summer,” he said.

“I’m holding out hope.”


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