This Coffee Shop is Selling More Than Just Coffee

philz coffee

Offering a quality product or service is essential for success in any business. But if you run a local business, that alone might not be enough. You also need to create an atmosphere within the business that customers will want to be a part of.

That’s the aspect of business that Phil Jaber focused on when launching Philz Coffee in San Francisco in 2002. He told WeWork:

“I visited over 1,100 coffee shops and five-star restaurants to figure out why people went there, what they were looking for, how the employees interacted with the patrons – it wasn’t to see how they made coffee. I wanted to know how they were building a culture around it.”

Now, there are 14 locations throughout the Bay Area. And at each one, Jaber manages to create a one of a kind experience for customers. His goal is to create more than just a place to have coffee, but a place for people to meet, socialize, and enjoy a sense of community.

Since launching the first Philz Coffee location back in 2002, he seems to have succeeded in that goal. He’s gained somewhat of a cult following among coffee lovers in the Bay area. And couples have even gotten married in his shops.

So how does he manage to create this community in each local shop? Part of that secret lies with Jaber himself, who has had a passion for both coffee and entrepreneurship from a young age. He began selling coffee to passersby from his family’s front yard at the age of eight. Then he helped his dad run a market while growing up, spending his spare time experimenting with coffee blends and conducting market research for his future shop.

But another part of Jaber’s success lies in the hiring process. Jaber said he makes sure to hire employees who have the same values and tastes. And then he gives them enough freedom to be creative, provided they treat customers with respect. Employees are called “Artists” instead of Baristas and are encouraged to provide personalized service to help build that sense of community in each location.

But the one part of the business that Jaber said has helped build a sense of community more than any other is, of course, the quality of the product. Jaber insists that if a product is great enough, it can create a one-of-a-kind experience that makes people happy. And that, in turn, helps foster a sense of community in the business. He said:

“When people try your coffee, it’s important to make them happy, and make it a better day for them. That’s the kind of experience I want to offer to our society – the people who will walk to, drive to, and even fly to for quality.”

Image: Philz Coffee


Annie Pilon Annie Pilon is a Senior Staff Writer for Small Business Trends, covering entrepreneur profiles, interviews, feature stories, community news and in-depth, expert-based guides. When she’s not writing she can be found exploring all that her home state of Michigan has to offer.

11 Reactions
  1. Martin Lindeskog

    Annie: Philz Coffee will be on my bucket list! 😉 I see that they have two (2) tea products.

    Did you know that they have one location at Facebook HQ?

  2. It seems like Jaber is really born for this. He has been selling coffee at a young age. It seems that he did not came up with this idea later in his life. He was simply meant to do it.

  3. The underlying principle here is important: small businesses can out-compete larger competitors by providing a better experience. Jaber isn’t trying to sell coffee cheaper than a competitor. They’re not trying to steal customers from others. They are producing a great product with an even better experience. Love it!

    • So true – he found a way to stand out in an industry by just considering the customer experience and offering something unique.

  4. I love that the employees are called artists! And it’s amazing that he started selling coffee so young, just out of his own interest. And it’s great people can get married in his shops too!