Buzzworthy Brands is a bi-weekly Restaurant Business podcast and feature highlighting innovative growth brands. Listen to the conversation with Bluestone Lane’s founder and CEO Nicholas Stone.
Bluestone Lane, the 50-unit coffee shop-cafe concept with Australian roots, was hit hard by the pandemic. But founder and CEO Nicholas Stone said the brand is moving from survival mode to a renewed focus on growth. New York City-based Bluestone Lane opened its first store in 2013. Until the coronavirus crisis, it had been on a fast growth clip, opening 44 stores over 42 months. Today, the chain is working on reopening stores temporarily closed during the pandemic, with plans to open 15 new locations this year and debut in new markets in 2022. Bluestone operates two different concept types – a small footprint coffeeshop and a larger cafe, geared more toward on-premise dining.
“You never want to waste a crisis,” Stone said.
Here are five more things to know about Bluestone Lane:
- Bluestone Lane borrows from Australian coffee culture. Founder and CEO Stone hails from Melbourne, where local coffee shops are king. “It’s very much the land of independents,” he said. The concept was among the first to bring flat whites and avocado toast to the U.S.
- The chain focuses on hospitality, on making customers feel like this is their local coffee shop. “For us, the purpose is really about making people feel great and happy and recognized,” Stone said.
- The pandemic is forcing Bluestone Lane to re-think its real estate portfolio as it looks toward new markets and more residential areas. The chain is looking to expand in California, Texas, Colorado and Arizona, potentially.
- The concept went to all-digital transactions last March, and computer and app-based payment still make up 90% to 92% of business. “It’s blown my expectations,” he said. “We don’t plan on going back. We think it’s the future.”
- Bluestone Lane is eyeing drive-thrus and curbside pickup options. The chain is currently testing a curbside pickup model in the Bay Area.