Maxime Chaury from Flash Coffee Indonesia talks about Indonesia’s fast-growing tech-enabled coffee chain, the technology behind it, and also its game plan for the future
Coffee culture has been rising fast throughout Asia in the past few years, particularly in Indonesia. Despite the fact that the coffee chain business is still dominated by big players, we have recently seen more and more individual businesses launching in the region. Enter Flash Coffee, a fast-growing tech-enabled coffee chain created by David Brunier and Sebastian Hannecker. The company originated in Jakarta and is backed by Rocket Internet SE, the incubator of foodpanda, Lazada, Zalora, and more.
With over 250 outlets across the region in seven markets, including 80 outlets in Indonesia alone, Flash Coffee has aggressive plans to expand to other prominent locations and has the ambition to become one of Asia’s largest coffee chains. Known for its striking grab-and-go all-yellow coffee shops, Flash Coffee has been consistently using 100-percent Arabica premium beans, with menus curated by 2017 World Latte Art Champion Arnon Thitiprasert and 2018 Indonesian Latte Art Champion Robby Firlian to ensure consistency and curate innovative brews.
The Indonesian office of the innovative coffee brand is run by Managing Director Maxime Chaury. As the story goes, the very first Flash Coffee store opened in Pacific Place Jakarta back in January 2020, right before the start of the pandemic. The idea then was to provide high quality and competitive prices for grab and go customers, with a focus on office areas. But then everything changed. “With the pandemic, we had to adapt our strategy to the incredible growth of delivery services to cater to our customers’ demands. This means extending our reach beyond traditional business districts and optimising our real estate strategy for high shares of delivery orders,” Maxime happily recalls. “This has proven to be a winning approach: We are now present in 80 stores across the Jakarta, Bogor, Depok, Tangerang, Bekasi (Jabodetabek) area, and we’re available on all delivery platforms. We’ve also recently introduced delivery through our own app and have seen a really positive response.”
Maxime also elaborates on the company’s goal, which is to democratise specialty coffee and by serving an award-winning menu of high-quality drinks at affordable prices. “Our technology investment helps us to bring high speed, convenience, and quality of service to our customers. We position ourselves as the Nike of coffee: a lifestyle brand that sparks trends, and plays a key role in energising and empowering our customers to dare to be different to achieve their dreams, one cup of coffee at a time,” he says.
Touching on the subject of technology, Maxime explains Flash Coffee focuses on five main pillars. “The first pillar is the consumer app, as it enables customers to order and pay online, pick up their drinks or get them delivered, and use Flash’s loyalty program and in-app gamification. On the backend, we also developed our own Barista App, which helps baristas manage stores and improve their operational efficiency. Our third pillar is big data for decision-making, from personalised promotions based on the purchasing behaviour of customers to the development of new menu items,” Maxime points out.
He continues: “The fourth pillar is store Automation, as we are working on fully automated stock counts and purchase orders via sensor technology. Finally, we use proprietary technology to improve real estate-related decision-making processes based on data, which enables us to reduce the risk of selecting low-performing real estate drastically.”
In a way, all of these things emphasise the importance of technology integration to respond to the post-pandemic lifestyle, since consumer behaviour has changed. Essentially, consumers are increasingly shifting to online channels, and this has accelerated with the majority of people working from home and only occasionally heading to the office. “We are in the era of the rise of smart consumers. They look for quality products at reasonable prices. And coffee is something most people cannot live without, so here we are to help,” Maxime says.
Technology integration also led the company to take more advantage of new tools for growth through social media. “We are present and active on social media, especially Instagram and TikTok, on top of Facebook, YouTube, and LinkedIn. Each social media platform presents different opportunities, and we always tailor our content towards the channel. Overall, social media strategy needs to be part of a larger marketing strategy,” he explains. “For instance, we have launched innovative campaigns in favour of healthy lifestyles, diverse beauty, and mental health; we have promoted local music bands, done partnerships with other brands, and empowered people to share inspiring stories on how they dare to be different.”
According to Maxime, social media supports and amplifies the company’s marketing strategy and helps to build awareness and loyalty to the brand. In this regard, influencer marketing is also becoming an increasingly important key element in the brand’s marketing strategy. “We collaborate with a diverse set of influencers to expand our community and drive up our engagement on our social media. In social media as in the rest of the marketing channels we work across, we believe in diversity and innovation. We don’t rest on our laurels: we keep innovating, launching new products, new partnerships, and new marketing campaigns every month,” he elaborates.
“As our identity is to be a disruptor, to dare to be different, we constantly need to push ourselves to be at the edge of innovation; be it in product development, service quality, or technological enhancement”
Interestingly, Flash Coffee also uses its social media to raise awareness about sustainability. In particular, Flash Coffee aims to become plastic neutral. “We work with CleanHub, a company dedicated to freeing the planet from plastic pollution. Through CleanHub’s global network of plastic collection projects, they will recover the same amount of plastic as the weight of each cup of our coffee sold,” Maxime explains. “In addition, customers have the choice to contribute a small amount to CleanHub at check-out with every order, helping Flash Coffee to move beyond Plastic Neutrality.” Flash Coffee is also currently working to make the brand’s plastic cups reusable for private use and reduce the total amount of plastic needed to make them.
Aside to that, Maxime also stresses the need to be creative in responding to contemporary challenges. “As our identity is to be a disruptor, to dare to be different, we constantly need to push ourselves to be at the edge of innovation; be it in product development, service quality, or technological enhancement,” he asserts. “So, this is the challenge: How do you constantly reinvent yourself, while growing at a very fast pace, which also requires attracting the best talents quickly, building rock-solid processes, and continuing to delight and retain customers? If we manage to answer this question well, we have the opportunity to be the next food decacorn of Asia!”
To top it off, Maxime calls attention to how Flash Coffee focuses on the future instead of the past. At a time when most coffee players heavily rely on sentimentality and nostalgia – he mentions at least five famous local brands that use the word “heart,” “soul,” or “memory” in their name and branding strategy – Flash Coffee looks ahead to empower people to push their boundaries and achieve their goals. “We have built a strong brand with an international appeal. Our unique eye-catching colours, our innovative design, and our values are unique in the Indonesian market,” he says.
But what about outside of the Indonesian market? Mind you, Flash Coffee’s expansion strategy to become the next food decacorn in Asia has been pretty incredible. For one, Flash Coffee now operates in seven markets across the Asia Pacific, namely Indonesia, Singapore, Thailand, Taiwan, Hong Kong, South Korea, and Japan. “We have a lot of ambitions for Flash Coffee in the next few years, and I’m unable to disclose them all. But I can assure you we are going to work hard on providing high-quality coffee at affordable prices for Asia. That involves growing our store footprint, both in existing markets and in new ones,” Maxime happily mentions.
As our conversation came to a close, Maxime touched on his vision for Flash Coffee’s future in its birth country. “In Indonesia, our prospects are particularly bright: Coffee consumption across the archipelago is growing at a double-digit rate per annum, the middle-class growth in the next few years will be second only to China and India. There is a rise of educated smart consumers who are looking for lifestyle brands and quality coffee, and we are here to precisely answer this growing demand. Our journey is just beginning, and we are going to accelerate our growth in the year ahead, so keep a lookout for a Flash Coffee store near you.