Growing up in California, In-n-Out Burger was the be all, end all when it came to burgers. I moved away from California in 2005 and lived on the East Coast (I still call Virginia “home”) for almost ten years before moving to the Pacific Northwest. The closest In-n-Out to me now is in Medford, Oregon and I long for the day my childhood burger love makes its way further north into the Cascades.
A few years ago, the owner of my CrossFit gym, Laurie, introduced me to Dutch Bros Coffee. I do enjoy my morning coffee, but I am not a coffee-aficionado by any means. Up until I became aware of Dutch Bros Coffee, Dunkin Donuts coffee was my jam. Even when I hit up the Starbucks by my office, I just get a Grande Blonde Roast. I don’t need anything fancy, I keep things simple. I would probably bumble my way around a complicated order and be made fun of anyways. A friend of mine once told me that she was thinking about Opening A Coffee Shop so she would be the one behind coffee we had in our local area. While it was an interesting idea, I don’t believe she really went anywhere with it. That’s a shame because it would have been nice to see.
So back to Dutch Bros Coffee. Laurie always talked about Dutch Bros Coffee. She would post pictures of their coffee when she went to visit family in Oregon. I was intrigued and soon learned about the cult status of their coffee, much like my In-n-Out. Lacey, WA had a location and one day, I happened to find myself there and I ordered a regular coffee with some cream and sugar in the drive-thru. For two reasons, I was immediately hooked. One, the coffee was amazing and two, the drive-thru staff were some of the nicest people I had ever met.
Fast forward to the fall of 2016. To get home from the office everyday, I have a couple of back ways to get around traffic on the busy streets of Renton. One day, I discovered my back route was now blocked off forever. Construction was beginning on some new business and I was mad that I had to find a new route to get around traffic. A few weeks later, I passed the new construction and noticed a sign on the fence: Future Home of Dutch Bros Coffee. My anger subsided and I became ecstatic. I think I even took a photo and sent it to Laurie, informing her of this amazing discovery. The newest Dutch Bros Coffee location would be within walking distance of my office. Monday mornings were about to become amazing.
Not too long ago, I randomly decided to email Dutch Bros to ask if I could cover the opening of the Renton location and lo and behold, they responded! Not only did they respond, but a team was going to be in town at the new location and I was invited to meet them! They have officially secured me as a customer for life and I am totally fine with being in their Dutch Mafia.
My fellow What’s Up Northwest writer, Carla Conrad and I met with their team and had a chance to ask them a few questions.
We met with the Renton Franchisee Ron Watkins, Ian Brooks from the People Development Team, Bethany Hashek from the Social Media Team, TJ Dooghan from the Studio Team and Amanda Roncarati from the Public Relations Team.
Dutch Bros Coffee was founded in 1992 by Dane and Travis Boersma and today is the country’s largest, privately held drive-thru coffee company, with over 270 locations in seven states and over 7,000 employees. The coffee beans come from Brazil, Colombia and El Salvador, with all of them being roasted at the Grant’s Pass, Oregon headquarters before being distributed out to all of the locations.
The company donates over $2 million a year to its local communities and nonprofit organizations, including the Muscular Dystrophy Association, in honor of co-founderDane, who passed away in 2009 after a four-year battle with Lou Gehrig’s disease.
Franchise owner Ron Watkins is from Eugene, Oregon (soon to become a Renton resident). He told us about the three main community give-backs that Dutch Bros participates in. On Valentine’s Day (aka Dutch Luv), each location chooses a local food bank to give back to. The first Friday in May is “Drink One for Dane Day,” which raises money for ALS research through the Muscular Dystrophy Association. September 29 is National Coffee Day, a day that Dutch Bros hosts its annual Buck for Kids Day, where each franchise picks a local children’s charity to donate to.
We asked how they chose that particular location in Renton (Rainier Ave and 7th Street, next door to Popeye’s and one block from Starbucks), and their Growth and Development Team is dedicated to finding the perfect sites for their drive thru locations. There is not a date yet for when the Renton location will open, but we will certainly keep everyone informed! Keep an eye on their Facebook page for employment opportunities in Renton as well.
As for the burning question of when they will have a Seattle location? Let’s just say that more will be opening in Washington. Controlled growth has been their best way to expand the franchise. They found the culture was not as strong the further the locations were getting away from the Grant’s Pass headquarters. They are ready to move into the Seattle market, but it will take time to continue the growth and development of the Dutch Bros Coffee culture in Washington. As Ron mentioned, with the saturation of coffee in the Seattle area, it’s hard for a company like Dutch Bros to firmly plant itself somewhere when the nearest location is over an hour or more away (Everett, Moses Lake, Lacey). They have to build the brand and maintain culture and that doesn’t happen over night.
Part of that culture are the employees at each location. Between Carla, Laurie and I, we have hit at least five of their drive-thrus, and the employees are consistently friendly with magnetic personalities. Ron said you can train someone to make a great cup of coffee but you can’t train attitude. He believes that good people come to work for and want to work for the company. Ron himself started off cleaning up at the warehouse in Grants Pass and unloading all of the bean bags and now he is about to be a franchise owner. To become a franchise owner, someone has to have worked for Dutch Bros for at least three years with one year of management experience. They hold onto that culture instilled in them and can take what they have learned into ownership. In another cool story, the franchise owner of the Moses Lake location held all this criteria and was awarded the franchise by fellow employees.
We asked each of them what their favorite coffee’s were. Since they are around coffee all day long, most of them stick to Black Americanos and stay away from the sugar. Ian mentioned the Cold Brew, which can be purchased in a can and has an almost chocolate port taste. I mentioned that porter beers were my favorite on the alcoholic beverage side and he said I would definitely love the Cold Brew. Not all locations have the Cold Brew yet, but will soon.
We will keep our readers informed of the Renton location opening and employment opportunities! If you haven’t tried out Dutch Bros Coffee yet, click here to find a location nearest you. A very special thanks to Ron, Ian, Bethany, TJ and Amanda for meeting with What’s Up Northwest!