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Capitol Coffee’s Investment in Adaptation

When Capitol Coffee was founded in 1979, it followed the traditional pattern laid out by other office coffee distributors before it: Load the truck with product, drive to the customer and provide the customer with the products they need. But conversations with customers uncovered additional needs and wants that Capitol could fulfill. So the company adapted.

Today Capitol Coffee is a full-line breakroom and janitorial supplies distributor that “dabbles in office supplies,” according to CEO Charles Brunson. And “coffee is still our passion.”

But the company’s success stems from continually being willing to adapt to changing market demands – and technology has played a significant role along the way.

Brunson recently spoke with me for the latest 7 Minutes With … executive interview, available here.

In the late 1990s, Brunson and his brother Ben saw an opportunity with the evolution of the Web, so they built their first website. “It was a basic, out-of-the box website,” Charles Brunson says. But it gave them an initial platform to build from.

From there, the Brunsons focused on integrating their platforms and building online ordering functionality – a huge step up from the physical order cards that had been used up to that point. Today, about half of the orders come through the Web platform, with much of the rest resulting from its unique “concierge service.”

There are still some holdouts, Charles Brunson says; those who still use the phone or even fax machines to place orders. But the early investments in technology allowed the distributor to evolve beyond the basic coffee delivery service into one that fulfills more customer needs – from paper to soda machines to even cleaning the coffee pot in the breakroom, he says.

Listen to the entire 7 Minutes With … interview, highlighting Capitol Coffee’s evolution by clicking on the video below.

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