Twitter To Go: One Houston Coffee Shop Makes its Mark

by Guest Post on November 17, 2008

This blog post was written by Erica O’Grady (@ericaogrady).

Twitter To Go?

When J.R. Cohen, Operations Manager for CoffeeGroundz (@coffeegroundz) Cafe in Houston, Texas first heard about Twitter from one of his customers, he was puzzled but intrigued. Today, he credits Twitter with almost doubling his clientele and with opening his eyes to a whole new way to build Community.

If you’re reading this article, then chances are you’re already on Twitter, and you may even have experienced the power of Twitter for building your own personal or corporate brand. Recently, more and more companies have jumped on the Twitter bandwagon to help manage their online identities making it increasingly harder to stand out from the crowd.

But Cohen and CoffeeGroundz have found a way to do just that. Shortly after joining Twitter, Cohen started following members of the local Houston Twitterati and in no time had amassed over 1000 followers. Cohen is a naturally charismatic, giving, and friendly guy – traits that make him a natural on a network like Twitter.

On Becoming The Purple Cow

Nothing can build your brand faster than being or doing something remarkable. Seth Godin, author of the recently released Tribes calls this becoming “The Purple Cow”. Cohen didn’t set out to become a Purple Cow – but with one brief 140 character message – that’s exactly what he’s done.

On October 31st, 2008 Sean Stoner (@maslowbeer) was hungry. As a regular customer at CoffeeGroundz he sent the following Twitter to Cohen:

Cohen quickly replied and Sean went through the drive-thru at CoffeeGroundz to pick up his burrito.

This simple exchange got a lot of coverage on Twitter and was hailed as potentially the first time that Twitter had ever been used to place a To-Go Order. Seeing an opportunity, Cohen started taking to-go orders via direct message from any of his Twitter Clientele.

CoffeeGroundz offers free Wi-Fi, plenty of outlets, and they serve beer and wine – making it a cross between a Coffee House and a Lounge. Today, customers can order beverages and tasty bites from the comfort of their seat using Direct Messages to @coffeegroundz. How cool is that? You don’t even have to stop working to walk to the counter and order a coffee.

Building Community While Making a Profit

Recently, CoffeeGroundz was the venue for a Houston Tweetup that Cohen nicknamed “The Great Twitter Party”. Nearly 100 Houston Twitterites spent a lovely Sunday afternoon there at the largest Houston Tweetup to date. And did I mention that they bought lots of food and beverages? So the next time someone tells you that you can’t make money from Twitter, tell them to think again!

Below is a quick video I shot on Ustream with J.R. Cohen of CoffeeGroundz Houston. It starts off slow, but Cohen is so charismatic that it’s worth a look.

Erica O’Grady is the #1 Erica on Google – Most days :o ) Currently she is a Social Media Consultant based in Houston, Texas (the damn near finest city in the South). You can read her blog at or follow her on Twitter.

{ 49 trackbacks }

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{ 28 comments… read them below or add one }

Sean Stoner November 17, 2008 at 10:59 am

Great post! I’m so pleased that JR has embraced twitter the way he has. It really shows how powerful social media can be, even to traditional retail outlets.

Linda MacPhee-Cobb November 17, 2008 at 3:53 pm

It’s great that JR has joined us on Twitter, not only has it been good for his business, but we all have a place to feel at home in his coffee shop now.

Jon Winters November 17, 2008 at 4:13 pm

Great example of how to use social media to boost business and build brand loyalty. Looking forward to the next meetup. Great job Erica, J.R., Sean, and everyone involved. –Jon (@obscura)

Ed T. November 17, 2008 at 4:27 pm

This is a MUCH better way to use Twitter to build one’s business than simply sending spammy tweets (which many think of as “advertising.”) Thanks for the info, next time I go over there I am gonna have to try this out.


J.R. Cohen November 17, 2008 at 5:07 pm

I really can’t believe how much Twitter has changed my life and how we operate The Coffee Groundz. Thank you @ericaogrady, @maslowbeer, and all the other Twitterites, I truly appreciate it!

Jeff Turner @respres November 17, 2008 at 5:15 pm

Laura, several of us in the, @tyr, @gingerw and @ines were at dinner last week in Orlando. The service was not great and we all thought we were being ridiculously geeky when we decided that twittering our order would be a much better way to get the job done. This was a fabulous use of Twitter. I, for one, will be stopping by on my next visit to Houston.

Ginger Wilcox @gingerw November 17, 2008 at 5:26 pm

Love it! Any restaurant who copies this plan will definitely get more visits from me.

Randy C November 17, 2008 at 5:29 pm

I don’t see how JR handles all of the Twitters, but he does. Was in town 3 weeks ago and was on the patio. WiFi was acting up so I sent him a Ping. Wanted to kill to birds with one stone (meet the man behind the Tweet, and get the internet back up). He pinged me back within 5 mins. Internet back up with in 10mins. Free Wine samples in 15 mins.

This man knows how to treat his customers right. Congratz JR.

Elaine M. November 17, 2008 at 5:46 pm

JR, you are an amazing host and your willingness to embrace Twitter & harness its potential for both you and your customers is a win-win situation. Although your shop is a bit out of the way for us I will definitely choose it over other places because of your service & hospitality.

fefe November 17, 2008 at 7:52 pm

I agree about feeling at home at the Coffee Groundz. It’s my new spot and I love how JR communicates and actually responds via Twitter!

Miguel Armaza November 18, 2008 at 12:04 am

I had been to Coffee Groundz about 2 or 3 times, but After that massive Tweetup I go almost every day!

David November 18, 2008 at 1:31 am

I’ve known about Coffee Groundz, but never made it there. I never heard any marketing or communication from the place. I started seeing @coffeegroundz, followed, and conversed. Twitter has allowed you to extend the great presence and attitude to hang with great people. Great job!

Katherine November 18, 2008 at 1:34 am

JR and Coffee Groundz are both awesome, which is why we’re going to have our next Linux Journal meetup there. That, and the fact that he doesn’t throw me out for saying wildly inappropriate things about GDruckman. ;)

Fayza November 18, 2008 at 1:28 pm

I live in Houston, but I’m not a coffee drinker. So if it wasn’t for Twitter, I probably would’ve never found my way into Coffee Groundz…enough to find out that they have beer, light fare, and a really homey atmosphere – of course, not to mention the spectacular customer service! I was already a believer in social media changing the face of a business before this, but Coffee Groundz has done and excellent job leveraging social media to the benefit of the Houston community.

Thanks for featuring this story!

David Tong November 20, 2008 at 9:02 pm

I had to watch the interview again and share the Facebook event link to the next Coffee Groundz Tweetup on December 7 2-6pm. Come see the success.

Fave November 21, 2008 at 1:36 pm

JR and the Coffee Groundz camp embody all that is good from the marriage between Twitter and traditional business. I applaud his open minded approach to growing his business and it is a joy to watch CG flourish right before my eyes.

The Coffee Groundz Tweetup on 12/7 is going to be HUGE!

Marc Nathan November 21, 2008 at 1:36 pm

I’ve been coming to CoffeeGroundz practically since it opened, not just because it’s owned by some friends of mine, nor because four blocks from my office – but because JR has taken great efforts to make it THE place for the twitter/geek place to be in Houston. His style is ideally suited for twitter – open, charismatic and knowledgeable – kind of the the GaryV of the coffee world. I’m very happy to host OpenCoffee Club there for the last year and a half, have had a hand in helping with the tweetups and Geek Gathering coming up. Also, it should be noted that JR provided the coffee for BarCampHouston2 last year – personally driving dozens of boxes of hot coffee to our venue – that’s real customer service. I can’t walk into the place morning, noon or night without having four or five twitter friends say hello. CoffeeGroundz has clearly become ground zero for the tech set here in Houston and it’s in no small part to JR embracing the community and adding to the conversation.

Jerry November 21, 2008 at 3:33 pm

This incredible JR, make sure my eclairs are FRESH ;-)
See you soon about the video.

Ari Herzog November 25, 2008 at 1:15 pm

Amazing story, I never knew. @badgergravling pointed me to this link.

I have a question: What’s the takeaway for smaller communities? If you shifted from Houston to a suburb 45 minutes away, would the customer base be as prevalent with Twitter and wi-fi?

JC Cohen January 31, 2009 at 12:33 pm

Jonathan, I think you finally found your “fortay”…. You have always been such a personable, fun, loving guy that everyone wants to be around, so it doesn’t surprise me that you have many “followers”! I’m so proud of you, big brother!!! I’m so glad you have come so far in turning Coffee Groundz into so much more than just a coffee shop! Love you!

RaviK March 31, 2009 at 5:35 am

Landed up here while surfing ideas to make coffee corner a better place. I wasnt sure about this idea when i started to read, but after i done finished, i think, this is a brand new dimension discovered! I was never at CGz or will i ever, cus I’m from India. Well Done JR. Thanks, R

SAH May 6, 2009 at 11:18 am

Love this article….wish the address was included.

Will seek this place out!


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