Interview: Reveille Coffee Co.

Thomas Newbury, co-founder of the San Francisco based coffee roaster and multi location cafe shares their history, brand, and future.

I understand you guys first started with a coffee truck, what attracted you guys in the first place to opening a coffee related business?

We really just wanted to be in hospitality.  We both loved coffee and starting off with a single product eliminated a lot of variables.  Starting out of a coffee truck simplified that even further.  We wanted to prove we could make our brand and product work on a smaller scale before fully investing in something such as a brick and mortar.

Could you describe your roaster set up? What motivated you guys from buying other roaster beans to roasting yourselves?

I think roasting our own coffee was a obvious natural progression from what we were doing.  It was a necessity in order to be taken seriously as a coffee shop as well as gain further control of our supply chain. We realized that at our growth and potential future growth it could help lower our costs and allow us to actually buy a better product.

Curious to understand the differences between Cafe Reveille and Reveille Coffee? Could you walk us thru the branding, naming and aesthetic choices?

We would like to think that we were kind of the pioneers of the amazing coffee program complimented by a respected food program.  when we first opened there weren't very many options like that.  there were good breakfast places that had good coffee available, but it was always a after thought to them, so the coffee was never great, but decent, especially if it was an espresso drink because theres more technical skill and knowledge involved in that.  We wanted to prioritize the coffee and have great food as well, while most great coffee shops had really limited selections like pastries or something outsourced.  Reveille Coffee started off as a small coffee shop with smaller kitchens.  When this was successful we decided to begin looking at larger locations with much larger kitchens that could produce serious meals while maintaining the same structure for how we positioned the coffee program.  We think its an effective strategy going forward where depending on how large the space is we can implement either concept.

You guys build beautiful stores, who are some of your influences in the brand and architectural development?

Thank you.  Everything we do is design and build, so we kinda piece things together as we go.  But i gotta say Japanese architecture and some of the things coming out of Australia really inspires us.

What are some of the greatest challenges you face in running a multi-store operation?

I think maintaining the culture of what were all about is the most difficult thing to maintain.  We are an industry of turnover and to get new employees to buy into our philosophy of customer service and high standards of coffee preparation which is what we really pride ourselves on is incredibly difficult.

Where did the name Reveille come from?

Just sitting in the office one day brainstorming what we were all about.  It had positive energy behind it and would get people talking about what it meant.

What are some of the lessons you guys have for other food and coffee entrepreneurs? Something you wish you hand known before you started?

Its an incredibly difficult industry to be in.  You can learn everything on the fly and starting off small was something that was really beneficial to us.  Having partners you can trust is also invaluable.  There are ups and downs so having people around you that you can rely on and trust is very important.

Lower Haight, San Francisco Store

What's next for Reveille? Would love to know your 5 year vision and plan?

People think we have really proven ourselves in San Francisco so we have ambitions to explore other cities domestically like Los Angeles, New York, Honolulu and Phoenix.

What's your drink of coffee choice?

Just a hot black coffee.

What are you doing when you are not making making coffee and running Reveille!?

Family time, friends, city hikes, and surfing. Playing with my dog Yin Yang.

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(This interview was conducted as part of a premium coffee subscription program called Kaldi in  2020 that is no longer in operation  due to COVID 19  Business Closures).

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