In 2011, Eric Myers opened the first Lofty Coffee cafe along the Southern California coast with a goal to create a community gathering place with fresh, sustainably-sourced coffee, bakery, and cafe items. His focus on customer experience led to Lofty eventually becoming its own coffee roaster, scratch baker and owner of five cafes, with a team of 90 employees. In the San Diego area, Lofty has an enviable cult following of locals and visitors alike. Yelp and Trip Advisor references include: "Lofty has the best coffee of all time...OF ALL TIME! (Kanye voice).” “Lofty Coffee will ruin your day —when you can't have it, that is!”
Setting a bar for customer excellence becomes harder as a young business grows. It is harder still when the products, services, and even business locations expand. At the end of 2018, with four cafes, and about 70 employees, Eric hired Krystal King, an experienced HR leader, to help manage the people strategy, operations, and systems.
Her first week on the job, Krystal did a full audit of existing employee files and the relative paperwork like I-9 forms, health benefits, payroll for each of them. She realized that onboarding alone took 1-2 hours per person and she immediately recognized a need to digitize HR programs and files to support continued growth and compliance.
“I remember the exact moment I knew we needed a change: when we reviewed every dollar we owed in employment taxes. We are never going back.”
Krystal knew from her experience at large retail companies, that she needed one system to manage onboarding, time-off tracking, benefits administration, and payroll. Especially important: that the system she selected was extremely easy to manage and to use. And she also wanted a technology partner that could support the company’s growing needs.
“The limited technology we had in-house when I joined was not only disconnected, it looked like my Grandmother’s old PC running on a DOS operating system. I knew that our employees, who are mostly college students, needed something as easy as an app on their phones. Zenefits’ sales advisor made the process personal and informative. And the company’s all-in-one platform, and its’ great mobile user interface, sold me.”
With Zenefits, it is an amazing 180-degree difference: we don’t even have to think about all of the process steps. And, we don’t have to employ someone whose whole job is to enter data in benefits forms.
Director of Operations
Building an Experience You’d Want for Your Family
A locally-owned, quality-driven coffee company, Lofty Coffee sources, creates and serves food and drinks that they’d be proud to share with their own families. That focus is key to their average local customers returning 4-5 times weekly.
“We don’t need to write your name on a cup because we already know it,” says Eric.
“We do what we love and love what we do, and want to continue doing this for generations to come. So, as a business, we have to be very conscientious of the effects our actions have on others. We can talk about saving the planet, but making smart, challenging choices every day is what we do.”
For example, if something meets Lofty’s quality standards and they can buy it locally, they will. And, nothing is overlooked. At the end of the process, all of their spent coffee grinds are sent to local farms to fertilize their respective crops. Full circle sustenance.
Team for Both Long Term and “Stepping Stone” Roles
The company ethos is just as appealing to prospective staff as it is to customers. Positions at Lofty Coffee are sought after by local artisans, business professionals, and college students alike.
“There is a lot that Lofty Coffee is doing right as a business,” said Krystal. “And the bonus of making an impact in the 5-10 mile radius around your house is also very appealing and rewarding.”
In fact, in the typically high-churn cafe business, the way Lofty engages its staff results in retention that outpaces the market. Many of their senior staff members have grown their careers with the company over the past 3-5 years. Krystal is also quick to point out that the company hires a lot of its baristas from local colleges. “We are pleased to offer a business stepping stone experience for our baristas, with direct exposure to the dynamics of running a business — before they move on to other opportunities.”
In her first five months using Zenefits, Krystal added 20-30 new employees to the Lofty roster, creating a seamless process for candidate offer letters and onboarding. “We used to do all the paperwork by hand,” says Krystal. “We probably save an hour per new employee now. And our new hires are definitely using the Zenefits mobile system to complete their paperwork, digitally.”
Further, Lofty Coffee previously had a stand-alone benefits enrollment system, which was disconnected from payroll and required duplicate entry and multiple steps to administer and stay compliant. By connecting the Zenefits benefits administration tool with their trusted advisor Marsh & McLellan Agency (a Zenefits Certified Broker Partner) Krystal now has the peace of mind that her open enrollment is done, fully compliant, and deduction changes are automated in payroll. Also, she’s empowered the company’s five general managers —via permission-based rules—with appropriate access to centralized payroll management, versus an excel spreadsheet process in place before Zenefits.
“With Zenefits, it is an amazing 180-degree difference: we don’t even have to think about all of the process steps. And, we don’t have to employ someone whose whole job is to enter data in benefits forms. Without Zenefits, all of that would have been untenable.”
“We are a scrappy little company willing to make hard decisions where it matters for our environment, for our customers, and for our team. I am happy to have Zenefits in place as we enter our next year, giving me time to look at exciting new opportunities for what is next for our team and our business.”