Idris Elba, Coffee, and the Little Cafe that Could

Grinder Café is a cute little coffee shop near the corner of Pape and Gerrard in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. It’s the type of place where the owner, Joelle, will step out from behind the counter, eyes lit up, to greet babies whenever a stroller pushes through the front door. There’s a warm feeling you get from being here and it’s easy to see that this cafe cares about it’s customers. It’s friendly, open and inviting, and a staple on this quickly gentrifying strip of neighbourhood. If you open a business anywhere near Grinder, Joelle will know your name.

Full disclosure, I’ve known Grinder Café for years and frequently share information or business advice when asked. I support them whenever I can. It’s my local coffee shop and I’m happy when I see it busy and it pains me to hear when sales are in a slump. But I don’t manage their social media or online presence, that remains in Joelle’s capable hands. And that’s where the #idrisneedsgrinder campaign started, in the mind of an adoring fan with a few beans to grind.

It was interesting to watch this campaign launch, develop and finish and see the results without being involved and it was a great experience with important lessons to learn that are relatable to any business. These are some of the takeaways from the #idrisneedsgrinder campaign;

Reach for the stars

The goal of the #idrisneedsgrinder campaign was to get Idris Elba, in town for the Toronto International Film Fest, to come by Grinder Café for a coffee. It was simple, funny and relatable. While the campaign was born out of pure fandom and wasn’t too serious in achieving its’ goal, I felt success would be in positioning Grinder Café as the “little coffee shop that could”.

Although it was a lofty goal, I didn’t feel it was unbelievable, unreasonable or unrelatable for Grinder patrons. In fact, setting an ambitious goal like this helped the campaign by forming it in customers’ minds as a take on David vs. Goliath, with loyal customers and fans of Idris banding together to get a busy, Hollywood movie star to come to this little, local coffee shop. Could they gather enough attention to get noticed?

Be prepared to dedicate a lot of time and energy to your campaign

One point that Joelle reminded me of was the incredible amount of time and energy she dedicated to this campaign; brainstorming ideas and executing them, promoting them to her followers. Joelle remarked that it was a constant struggle to find the time to do the campaign in the way that she envisioned.

The lesson here is that ideas take time to flourish and be refined, and then reworked into something feasible and in line with your goals. A good campaign requires a real commitment of time and energy and shouldn’t be undertaken without an understanding of what it will take for it to succeed.

Be creative

The crux of Joelle’s campaign was to encourage customers to take selfies with a small cut out of Idris Elba, as if this is what it would look like if he was right there in the shop with you. To be entered to win a Grinder gift certificate, customers had to post their selfie on Instagram, and then tag #grindercoffeeshop and #idrisneedsgrinder.

The simplicity of this campaign made it easy and fun for customers to get involved. It was whimsical and funny and not difficult for customers to follow the instructions and participate.

Use your friends

Joelle took Idris on a little walk around the neighbourhood and took pics with other businesses and tagged them all. This was a great way to expand the reach of the campaign as each business responded and promoted it to their followers.

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Eventually the campaign reached the attention of Lisa Power, a writer for BlogTO, and Grinder Café and the #idrisneedsgrinder campaign were featured in an article.

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The results of the #idrisneedsgrinder campaign? Well, Mr. Elba didn’t end up coming in for a coffee, so in that regard, it wasn’t successful. However, the campaign attracted a number of inquisitive, new patrons and generated some positive and news worthy attention from the media. Obviously, that’s a very important and valuable result to achieve for any campaign.

In the end, I can only conclude that the campaign was a success as the time and effort involved had a positive effect on the Grinder Café brand. Businesses that are looking for a similar boost and wanting to get media attention would do well to follow the lessons from Grinder; set a lofty goal, be funny, relatable and creative, use your friends and community to help spread the word, and commit the time and energy necessary to do the campaign right.


Thanks for reading and I hope you find my information useful. As usual, if you have any questions or comments please feel free to comment below.

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Branding vs Marketing

Full credit to David Deal for this exceptional article. I haven’t seen a better example online yet. Mr. Deal provides a textbook example of branding and a reminder of the perils of failing to deliver on your promises and the expectations of your guests.

To sum it all up, branding is all about the experience between a consumer and your brand. It’s short, sweet, and simple. But sadly, it’s often ignored.

Too many times in restaurants I see the same old mistakes being made; promises that were made weren’t delivered, expectations weren’t met, and customers became angry, disillusioned and took to social media to voice their displeasure. That’s the “problem” with hyping up your restaurant; it sets up an expectation that certain ideals will be met.

For example, imagine seeing an Instagram picture of stale lettuce, tomatoes and vegetables on a sandwich. Now imagine that sandwich is from Subway, whose slogan is “Eat fresh”. Can you see the potential problem creeping up here? Subway made a promise of providing fresh ingredients and customers expected that. While, obviously, customers certainly expect to receive fresh ingredients in their meals, wouldn’t you agree that there’s nothing more egregious as having your entire restaurant brand built upon the one thing you failed to deliver? The fallout from this could be damaging to your restaurants’ reputation.

Stop this cycle before it starts!

If a staff member notices a problem starting, give them permission to “make it right”, right there on the spot. Encourage them to deliver an experience that customers can’t wait to share with their friends. If you promise that you’re the “fastest” pizza delivery, take steps to ensure that you are. Streamline your processes, prepare in advance for busy times, modernize your equipment, and/or hire more drivers. If you promise to always deliver “piping hot” pizza, invest in technology that will keep your pizzas hot while being delivered. Maybe there’s a new type of mobile oven or newfangled insulated sleeve out there! The point is, if your brand is built on a promise, that’s your number one priority.

Thanks for reading and I hope you find my information useful. As usual, if you have any questions or comments please feel free to comment below.

Be sure to follow me on Facebook and visit my website, to see what I can do for you.