How Jimmy's Coffee Competes with Big Coffee Corporations


jimmy's coffee how to compete with big coffee corporations

Last week I sat down with Ryan Maloney, the Director of Operations at Jimmy’s Coffee.

With over 18 years in coffee, Ryan has experience at the management level at Starbucks and recently moved onto Jimmy’s -- one of Toronto’s hippest multi-location, independent coffee shops!

This is the 3rd of a 4 part mini-series where we pick the brain of Ryan on all things cafe success-related...  



“How does a local cafe like Jimmy’s find success in such a saturated Toronto coffee market which includes massive corporations like Starbucks, Tim Hortons, and more?!”

I pose this question to Ryan, as I think it’s the first think I’d be worried about if I was going down the road of opening my own cafe.

“People walking into our locations are looking for something different. The quality is there, our coffee and its quality is the foundation of the business. You can deliver on a quality product while still having fun. We don’t take ourselves too seriously, and I think that is what our customers love. Coffee is fun, it brings people together, it encourages conversation, and that is felt in everything we do. Our locations are comfortable and friendly spots -- like you’re hanging out in your friends basement. You don’t get that everywhere.”

It’s impossible to copy the Starbucks model and try to out-do them. But Jimmy’s Coffee is genuine about who they are. They’re not doing coffee the Starbucks way, they’re doing it their way. An example of this is Ryan’s decision to not include the mobile-order ahead option as part of the Jimmy’s mobile app. While Starbucks’ mobile order ahead has seen some big revenue success, it changes the environment for both customers and employees in a way that Ryan does not believe works for Jimmy’s. The team made a conscious decision not to include this feature as it discourages conversations while customers wait the 1-5 minutes for baristas to prepare their drinks, and creates logistical confusion and hustle-bustle at the drink pick-up area.


They key thing for Ryan and the Jimmy’s team is understanding their customers. Why are the loyal customers so loyal? Talk to them, understand what they love and what keeps them coming back. Rather than trying to replicate a successful model, the key to the success of any small business is centred around diversifying and honing in on a unique offering. A unique product, service, or experience, or all of the above, is what will separate you from big corporations!


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