June 24, 2022
After launching the nation’s first student-run cafe, Saxbys built a website that effectively serves multiple business needs.
Saxbys started as a corner coffee shop with big ambitions: to double as a social impact company. After ten years of serving its communities with non-profit collaborations, it took its social mission one step further in 2015, partnering with colleges to launch the Saxbys Experiential Learning Platform℠, a network of cafes entirely designed for and run by college students. With each partnership, a Student CEO℠ earns full academic credit and wages, completes extensive entrepreneurial business training and fully owns all aspects of running the cafe for a semester.
The student-run model changed Saxbys' online presence. It now needed a website designed for both cafe guests and potential partners, like non-profits.
"Sharing the story, hiring students, growing partnerships and making it easy for guests was really important," says Saxbys Senior Brand Marketing Manager Rachel Moning.
The challenge seemed daunting, but with BentoBox, Saxbys found a partner that could design its website with clear and concise messaging that reflected its mission and social impact. As the partnership grew, online commerce tools became part of the company's business model, helping it take its mission to the next level.
580k+ total website visitors
350k+ mobile website visitors
"It's a hard story to tell," Moning acknowledges of Saxbys' website needs. Between the cafe business, the social impact mission and the aggressive student hiring, its website needed to function in part like a restaurant website, non-profit website and job portal, respectively. And it needed to do all three things in a way that felt cohesive to guests.
To help Saxbys combine its needs into a cohesive design, BentoBox designers consolidated information into categories. From there, designers organized the categories in the header and footer of the website, strategically placing emphasis on the most important areas. Finally, to keep text minimal and digestible for visitors, the design made heavy use of photos, illustrations and embedded videos. The outcome was an easy-to-navigate website with compelling but not overwhelming storytelling.
Saxbys’ new website drove immediate improvements, attracting more students to its program, partners to its business and guests to its cafes. With the increase in visibility and awareness, the company was ready to grow.
"The website now helps share the story of the Experiential Learning Platform and attracts students and university leadership," says Moning. "We've only grown because of it and can share the story better and offer an enhanced experience."
Before partnering with BentoBox in 2018, Saxbys outsourced its coffee beans and roasting. However, as it launched more locations and became a more recognized brand, people expressed a desire to buy Saxbys' coffee beans for home brewing. As a result, Saxbys' leadership saw an opportunity to open its own roastery and generate revenue with retail coffee.
When it did, Saxbys turned to BentoBox to add a new page to its website for the roastery and retail coffee program. The page proudly explains that Saxbys converted a century-old ice house into a roastery, and that it’s committed to investing in its home city of Philadelphia. This helps give the roastery its own identity, while still embodying Saxbys' larger brand and social mission.
More than that, however, Saxbys also uses the merchandise store on its website to sell coffee beans online. It doesn’t sell beans exclusively — it also sells branded merchandise and roastery tours — but coffee beans to brew at home are a top seller.
"The majority of sales of retail coffee bags come from BentoBox,” says Moning. “That wasn't important when we were first outsourcing our coffee, but it's super important and valuable now that we proudly source and roast our own coffee.”
With success selling its retail coffee beans online, Saxbys was eager to expand online revenue streams. One area of interest was campus catering, but this came with operational concerns. Since Experiential Learning Platform cafes are entirely student-run, cafe leadership naturally turns over often — which means all new technologies must be especially intuitive and easy-to-learn.
BentoBox had a creative solution. Saxbys could take online orders through BentoBox Pre-Order & Catering, which allows different users to manage online catering with dedicated roles. With this setup, Saxbys corporate controls catering hours and menus from the BentoBox back-end, while cafes receive and fulfill orders with automated email notifications. This division of labor allows cafe leadership to quickly master the parts of online catering they're responsible for.
"It's the biggest reason we transferred to [BentoBox] catering," Moning remembers. "That was the most important thing. That was the trigger to say, ‘Okay, we can bolster our catering now."
Saxbys meant it when it said it could bolster catering: All 20 of its cafes now offer a variety of boxed meals and coffee bundles. The catering solutions are even tailored to university life, including packages perfect for study groups, student events and faculty functions.
Saxbys' complex business model proves that with creativity and the right partnership, an information-driven website can be clean and refined and still drive meaningful revenue.
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