Black Rock Coffee Bar - Nothing but growth

Stacey Lawrence

By Stacey Lawrence

Black Rock Coffee Bar is all about growing from within.

The contemporary coffee chain offers a unique proposition to their customers and franchise owners alike: through their employee franchise program, employees have the opportunity to start their own location.

Interested employees can partner with an outside investor to finance it, and the new franchisee receives 51% of the company. And, since these new owners are previous employees, they’re equipped to ensure that Black Rock’s culture is maintained and consistent at each new location.

Black Rock Coffee Bar started in 2008 when 3 families teamed up—families who were originally in the construction and coffee industries. Those families opened the first stores in locations throughout Oregon. In the span of 9 years, they’re now 42-locations strong, with plans to open an another 15–20 locations in 2017.

Clay Geyer has been with Black Rock Coffee Bar for over 2 years, but has worked in the coffee industry for 12. He’s one of many employees-turned-owners who took advantage of the Black Rock franchise program. His location—Black Rock’s 33rd store— is in Troutdale, Oregon.

Clay attributes the continued success of Black Rock to its consistent culture—regardless of where the franchise exists, customers are guaranteed a hip, stylish, positive brand experience inside the store and beyond. Attending to customers is Black Rock Coffee Bar’s top priority, including superior quality for drive-thru customers. Further, franchises become fixtures in their local communities—they get involved and give back through charities or events.

At Black Rock Coffee Bar, it’s the small things that make the biggest difference. Clay is happy to explain, “We roast our beans in small batches in Portland, which is extremely important to us. Our freshness and quality is always at the highest level—small batches allow more control over temperature and flavor profile.”

Black Rock has a variety of store types, including one- and two-window drive-thru locations, sit-down/drive-thru locations, and sit-down-only locations. On its own, the variance in location types makes creating employee schedules tricky, not to mention that Black Rock has locations that share staff members.

Prior to 7shifts, each store created schedules in whichever way worked best for them—dry-erase boards, pen-and-paper schedules, Excel spreadsheets, other online scheduling tools. “When you have 1–2 locations, the dry-erase board is fine, but when you have multiple locations and employees who work at more than one location, it gets a lot harder to manage,” says Clay.

An employee who came to work at Black Rock HQ used to oversee Hawaiian Time restaurants in the area and previously used 7shifts. He suggested 7shifts for Black Rock, and when Clay spoke with 7shifts, he was sold on customer service alone.

“When a company starts to grow and they want consistency, that’s when it really matters. 7shifts has saved a lot of time for our managers,” says Clay.

7shifts has enhanced and streamlined the way Black Rock runs. Before 7shifts was implemented, each manager easily spent at least 2 hours a week flipping between multiple documents—time-off requests, availability calendars, and schedule pages—to build a schedule. Now, with 7shifts taking care of the heavy lifting, managers create full, detailed schedules for a week in 20–30 minutes.

Team communication happens within the messaging and chat functionality of 7shifts; previously, it was mostly via direct text messages to the employer or employee. Pre-7shifts, keeping the contact list current with staff phone numbers was another extra step for the management teams. Now, with the convenience of in-app messaging, employees no longer miss communication or shifts, as they receive real-time notifications and can always view the most up-to-date schedule on the app. With 7shifts, employees no longer mistake a schedule created 3 weeks ago as the current schedule, which improves staff accountability.

“These days, having everything on your phone is extremely advantageous to employers and employees. We’re looking to have everything at the click of a button, and that’s what the 7shifts app provides us with.”

One of Clay’s favorite 7shifts features is the labor budget tool, which allows managers to enter in their projected/actual sales and view labor percentages as they create the schedule. Prior to 7shifts, Black Rock Coffee Bar tracked labor multiple ways, mostly using spreadsheets. Clay admits it was sporadic and not up-to-date. “When payroll went through, we would have a look and find the number we needed, but by that time, you may have wasted 2 weeks or even a month knowing you’ve had high labor costs. With 7shifts, we can look at it day by day and week by week. It’s current.”

The 7punches time-clocking app, which integrates with 7shifts, has been advantageous for Black Rock. Being able to run variance reports to compare scheduled labor versus actual labor is an improvement on their past process.

“The beautiful thing about 7shifts is that it saves our managers a lot of time because everything is contained in one app. From tracking hours for payroll, to employees requesting time off, to employees being able to access the app on their phone, to communicating with other employees and being able to switch shifts. It’s been fantastic. The fact that a manager can have a shift schedule template built and use that to create the schedule every week—that’s been a huge help.”

In addition to the 15–20 new locations for 2017, Black Rock Coffee Bar also plans to open a micro-roasting facility in Arizona that will supply the surrounding locations with the freshest beans possible. Clay says the rapid growth period has been amazing to be a part of, especially while the county has been in a state of economic depression.

“In the event something comes up, 7shifts is very willing to listen to our feedback—that part has been fantastic.”

What does Clay view as being the biggest benefit to being a 7shifts client? “The time that’s saved writing a schedule. A schedule always needs to be done, whether it’s weekly or monthly. The amount of hours that can pile up with managers and employees aren’t even realized. You’re saving a lot of time and labor there. It makes something that’s so redundant, so much easier.”
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Stacey Lawrence
Stacey Lawrence

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