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The Road from Independent Coffee Shop to an eCommerce Business

well&fed started off as a small bundle of charm and good coffee set in a calm part of up-and-coming Peckham in London. As a new establishment, with little-to-no brand recognition and a quieter than the desired setting, well&fed needed to get its name out there, not only as a local sanctuary of fresh food, independent coffee, and premium groceries but also as a wellbeing brand central to the local community. However, with Covid-19 throwing a spanner in the works, well&fed needed to adapt ASAP.

How did we help a local coffee shop turn to online eCommerce to thrive and survive in this time? 

well&fed was founded by Maria Surcel, a Romanian Wellness Entrepreneur whose ethos was centered around simple living, wholesome cooking and wellbeing. She wanted to ensure that these core values were reflected in the voice and presence of her new cafe. Our first step in doing so was reinforcing the well&fed identity in a digital space by focusing on organic growth and creating meaningful interactions with customers through social media. This way we could communicate the ideologies that Maria’s cafe represented: wellbeing, quality and community, all through appealing imagery, informative and engaging captions and posts, as well as providing backstories to the producers, farmers, roasters etc. who make well&fed possible. 

Social media was also used to connect with suppliers and expand the selection of premium groceries, which laid the groundwork for well&fed’s digital transformation. We reached new audiences by engaging with other businesses in the community which aligned with the brand’s ethos and formed partnerships with those businesses to promote each other. Maria also often sourced new suppliers by seeing what some of her customers were consuming, liking or recommending e.g. the sustainable food brand Rubies in the Rubble, whose owner is a well&fed customer, as well as some local honey and cheeses producers.

With the next stage of growth came the global lockdown. Maria had to move fast as Covid-19 shuttered bars and restaurants left, right and centre. “The growth came from us increasing focus on the execution of our brand values, listening to feedback from customers and adapting to demand. So, when the epidemic came about, we used social media to engage with our current audience (and new audiences) to let them know what we offer and how we've adapted. An online shop had to be created as the kitchen closed, and orders were moved online. This way people could spend less time browsing the shop, as we'd have their orders in advance and ready for them to pick up. It also helped the cafe manage and adapt stock to what their audience needed”.

Maria’s top advice for adapting to a global pandemic:  “Pivot! the only way to survive and succeed when the unexpected is expected is to pivot. Adapt as quickly as you can, while staying true to your brand values. Adjust your offering, without diluting your ethos. We remained a wellbeing, artisan shop, but instead of offering homemade food, we offered handpicked premium essentials. Same value for money, same high-quality selection and same passion for putting the customer's well being first. So it only helped us attract more customers as opposed to alienating our current client base. 

Another key factor in our success was relying on technology and new systems: we created and started operating an online shop within a day, linked it to our platforms and confidently invited people to adopt a new way of shopping with us. Don't be scared to pivot online! to use technology to enhance the offline experience”.

Key takeaways

Moving from an independent coffee shop to an eCommerce business model may not have seemed like the most obvious path for well&fed. But by doing so they kept their business sustainable in a harsh economic climate and managed to expand their services and offerings, in a way which they may not have done otherwise.

Don’t be afraid to change

Moving to an eCommerce model can give your cafe a steady stream of revenue that you can use to scale the business more intelligently. 

Market yourself as a subject matter expert

well&fed built themselves up as a local one-stop-shop for wholesome food and artisanal coffee. By establishing yourself as an expert in the market, it will be easier to attract new customers when scaling the business either offline or online.

Educate your customers

Smarter customers make smarter decisions. Through social media well&fed were able to educate consumers on living and eating consciously. With wellness becoming a core value in the way we live, people are more likely to rely on the well&fed brand for the products they need to do so.

Establish a strong online identity

Social media was an essential tool to increase awareness of the changes in the company, especially in a time when face-to-face communication with consumers wasn't possible. Maria was able to reinforce the cafe’s refocus on consumer safety and wellbeing via social channels all whilst maintaining the brand’s core values. By keeping this consistency in the branding and encouraging customers to share their stories, it becomes easier to reach a larger audience.

Make smart partnerships

Connect and partner up with brands that have similar values to your own. well&fed reached new audiences and found more suppliers by engaging with other businesses in the community which aligned with the cafe’s ethos and formed partnerships with those businesses to promote each other.


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