Creating a recipe for success from scratch is a central theme when talking about Charlottetown's remarkable Beanz Espresso Bar.
A week before opening, Beanz as a business name was made unique by dropping an S on “beans”, and then adding a Z. This creative naming helped to make the name both novel in the community, and ideally descriptive of the offering at the time. Beanz opened as a specialty coffee shop in the early 90's which became a new restaurant trend in Canada.
Beanz Espresso Bar is strategically located on a central street in historic downtown Charlottetown, PEI and backs onto the offices of the Department of Veterans Affairs . Operators Lori Kays and husband Doug Hurry created a popular food service operation, by focusing on the basics of a food menu, and by using their business savvy to entertain customers while feeding them.
EatsPEI is a local Island tourist guide magazine that captures the unique appeal of this flourishing 55-seat espresso bar, along with its seasonal sidewalk settings for another 35 seats, in their descriptive restaurant listings.
"Beanz Espresso Bar Charlottetown is the first café of its kind on Prince Edward Island; Beanz has been on the scene in Charlottetown for more than a decade. Besides supplying a wide array of steaming hot beverages, (including what is arguably the best coffee in Charlottetown) Beanz Charlottetown also serves up wholesome and delicious meals made fresh on-site. This charming café provides the ideal atmosphere for a lingering lunch, but speedy service from the friendly counter staff can also get you back to the office if you’re in a hurry. Whatever you are looking for in PEI restaurants; whether you’re looking for an escape for a five minute coffee break, are craving a “real” soup and sandwich combo for lunch, or need an upcoming event catered, give Beanz Espresso Bar and Café a try. You will not be disappointed."
In October of 2015, Beanz will celebrate 20 years in business.
Homemade soup and local sandwich ingredients are a welcome compliment from customers, and one that Lori takes pride in as an operator.
"At Beanz, we prepare from scratch. It is more labor intensive to prepare our menu items from scratch especially for our soups, sandwiches and homemade desserts, but it is what we have built our reputation on over the years", she says.
"We developed our menu to be one that focused on fresh, simple and homemade. All of our morning muffins, cinnamon rolls and biscuits are prepared from scratch.
While the menu is widely ordered by all customers, there are some popular favorites with customers.
Customers Love Our Homemade Peanut Butter Squares
“Our Peanut Butter Squares top our baked goods in popularity. But, right now we have a menu special called “The Super Salad”. It is a traditional Greek Salad with avocado, and hummus on the side topped with our very own Veggie burger. Our “Super Salad” is selling like proverbial hotcakes. The name play on the menu board makes everyone smile," says Lori.
"One of the reasons I love what I am doing is the relationship I have with the customers and staff. We work hard and have fun doing it. You have to love this business to survive it. We have no intentions of branching out at this point in time. We are happy with what we have and are simply looking for ways to do it better".
We think about what will please our customers more, and get them coming back as often as possible. Customers know that we prepare many healthy recipes, and we are always looking for new healthy eating options. “says Lori.
“We source a lot from local Island producers. For instance, our beef is local , as are many of our other ingredients, says Lori. We are vigilant on things like added sodium and working to expand our gluten free options as well as being careful around known allergies. Customers are extremely careful today about what they order and consume.”
Lori was working in a government desk job and not liking the feeling of being trapped at a desk.
“I am just not good at sitting in one place because I like to move around a lot. This business keeps us hopping, and I work a regular workweek. We have incredible staff, which leaves us free to (take)weekends off. We normally would take a week off during the winter to go south and take advantage of long weekends in the summer and last year we enjoyed a three-week vacation overseas, which was a great stretch of time off.”
"In the beginning, we worked 7 days a week. Now we have experienced staff who know our process and our customers. We employ 12 fulltime and another 6-10 part-time year around. Commercial catering and seasonal tourist visitors balance out our volume and staffing by season, which is great for us.”
Joining UNIPCO was a no-Brainer Decision
"We joined UNIPCO in 1996 and that was a great decision. Frankly, UNIPCO is the reason we are still in business today. We were new to the food business, and they gave us helpful information on how to run our business. Our decision to become a member of UNIPCO was, and is still a no-brainer. Belonging to UNIPCO takes the pressure off you in negotiating prices and saves time with monitoring our invoice pricing.”
"I appreciate that when I do slip up and order something that is not from UNIPCO, they will bring it to our attention. They helpfully will point out where I could be earning a rebate for the same product purchase, and I make the change immediately."
"If I encounter a problem with a product, their staff is very prompt to help get the problem resolved. UNIPCO has a great staff backing us up, which saves so much of my time. I do not think we would still be in business if we had not joined UNIPCO when we did, especially in our early years when money was tight," says Lori.
Beanz's Business Success Recipe:
Our staff are one of the biggest reasons behind our success. They are our extended family and they all have a great sense of pride in what they offer at Beanz - they take ownership in our business.
Many of our customers are known on a first name basis and the interest in what goes on in each others lives is a source of daily banter – whether it is about school, kids, sports, life events etc.. We have a very entertaining staff, which keeps all of us in smiles for most of the day.
We are blessed to work around such energy and youth! It makes coming to work everyday a pleasure and this is evident by the smile on our customers’ faces too. There is a genuine relationship between our staff and our customers.
Four years ago we hired a manager who has alleviated a lot of the daily stresses for us. He has an amazing energy level and is always looking for new and entertaining ways to run things. He keeps a sharp eye on our business and has made the daily running of the business so much easier.
What we have found as a great add – on for us is the food catering we do to business meetings around the City.
Catering and food delivery to commercial customers is a good year round business. It has helped our business grow in sales volume, and in reaching out to more new customers. Catering provides a way to get our product out to people who may have never been into our shop before. "
Community Promotion Campaigns with Pre-Paid Beanz Cards
One of the most effective ways we build awareness of our business name and introduce new customers to our business is through the local community charity drives and fundraising events. We stay away from print, TV and radio advertising, but we do a huge amount of donations in the form of pre-paid Beanz Coffee Cards that are good for ten free coffees.
These are used for group fund-raising and in giveaway contests throughout the City and Province. These gift cards bring new people to our location or reward our long-term customers with another reason to return. Our Beanz Cards also provide an affordable solution for the constant requests from community groups for business donations, charity or sports organization, etc. raising funds.
“It is important to offer Wi-Fi access in your location. Customers expect it, so we provide it for free and customers appreciate the convenience of checking in with their business and personal lives with their coffee. This is especially important during the tourist season for travelers."
Local Art on the Walls for Sale to Customers
Another signature promotional program is celebrating and helping local artists by featuring their artwork on our walls. It is surprising the number of art pieces that have been sold by an artist to someone coming in for a snack or coffee break.
Consumers do notice Beanz Espresso Bar as a welcome and interesting place to visit. Customers often post lengthy positive reviews on TripAdvisor’s website. Lori and Doug take special pride in this public recognition for the hard work of the Beanz team.
The Kays-Hurry duo has no intention of slowing down or changing course on their formula for business success.
They are the proud parents of four children, all of whom worked during their youth at Beanz, but are now working in other occupations across Canada. Lori says that so far, none appears to be interested in taking over the workload.
"My children watched us, worked with us in their youth, and they know what it takes to make a success from scratch. But, at this point, none are ready to settle in PEI”.