AmyJo DiMeglio, vice president of retail operations, and Karen Huh, vice president of brand and product strategy, might be new to Bulletproof—DiMeglio has been with the brand for a year and a half and Huh for three—but they are not new to the functional-food or coffee businesses. Before Bulletproof, DiMeglio spent 17 years at Whole Foods, while Huh was at Starbucks for nearly a decade. Today, they work together as a team to help people feel better through functional foods like MCT Brain Octane oil or collagen, sold as products in stores throughout the country and online, as well as in many menu items at Bulletproof’s three cafés across the Los Angeles area and Seattle. DiMeglio is at the helm of those locations, while Huh handles the strategy behind Bulletproof’s brand and products. We talked with the pair about the cafés, how they inform the rest of Bulletproof’s business, and how the team hopes to use them to grow people’s understanding of functional foods.
How has Bulletproof as a brand developed?
Huh: Bulletproof started in 2012 as a blog to educate people—not yet consumers—about what [CEO] Dave Asprey had learned about biohacking to feel awesome. He was in a place where he was overweight and felt a lot of brain fog. To figure that out, he was experimenting with food and supplements. In 2013, he came out with a coffee and then quickly launched MCT oil, now Brain Octane Oil, which I would say is one of the most functional ingredients and products that we offer. He also quickly launched collagen protein. The cafés came to light the summer of 2015, with the first location in Santa Monica.
How do the cafés serve the brand and its customers?
Huh: We want to educate people on what the Bulletproof lifestyle is about and how really delicious it can be. For diets, cooking and figuring out what you’re supposed to eat and feeling like you’re sacrificing are all major barriers to entry for consumers. A café is a vehicle for making it easy for consumers to see how delicious being on the Bulletproof lifestyle can be. It’s about education, brand awareness, and community. If you visit the Santa Monica café, you often see the same people coming in and out, enjoying that experience. There’s a real robust community there supporting each other.
DiMeglio: Coming from e-commerce on a blog and products on the shelves, it enables a brand to come to life. Coming into a physical space defines for the consumer that this is a complete lifestyle; we’re more than just coffee.
Can you describe the cafés?
DiMeglio: They range from 1,000 to 1,800 square feet. Santa Monica is the most robust one, with a full food and drink menu, plus ice cream, which is popular. Everything on the menu makes you feel good, from a Bulletproof Breakfast Burrito to protein bowls. Bulletproof Coffee incorporates certified, clean coffee beans that are tested for toxins, plus grass-fed butter and Bulletproof Brain Octane oil, which powers your brain and body to give you steady, lasting energy. We also offer Upgraded Bone Broth and other drinks like the Avocado Cold Brew, Berry Avocado, and regular Berry Smoothies.
What is the biggest challenge in introducing functional foods to menus?
DiMeglio: The biggest challenge is education of the benefits to our customers and seeing the value of the functional foods. It requires our team members to be well educated on our products so they can be able to communicate out to customers. We have a detailed onboarding training and a continued training program to make sure they have the information they need to answer questions. Many of our team members share their personal journeys with our customers and explain how using Bulletproof functional foods in their diets has impacted them in a positive way.
What sort of insight is the team gathering from the brand’s cafés?
Huh: We have a feedback loop where AmyJo’s team shares what feedback they hear about her menus and the products they have on shelves. It gives us an insight into what excites that community, which are our most die-hard consumers. We always want to know what they’re saying, feeling, and thinking, and that really informs the brand to be the most impactful.
What’s the café strategy for the future?
DiMeglio: We definitely want to grow. Our vision is that people won’t have to drive miles for a café. We want to be everywhere and anywhere. Right now, we’re defining our footprint.