OCS Success: The Royal Cup Connection

Oct. 27, 2015

Great things evolve over time and that rings true for Royal Cup Coffee. The company is unique in that it has celebrated more than 120 years of success. Over its century-old history the company has come to employ nearly 900 people and broaden its customer base to more than 40,000 customers. It has expanded into restaurants, hotels and offices and grown from a small-town roaster to become a major importer and distributor of premium coffees and teas, all while keeping a high reputation for the best quality.

A royal history

Royal Cup Coffee was originally founded in 1896 by Henry Batterton in Birmingham, AL and called Batterton Coffee. Very active in the community, Batterton first began personally serving his coffee at local community events and selling cups of coffee out of his horse-drawn wagon. Because of its high-quality taste, it was dubbed a “royal” cup of coffee by the locals. Batterton continued selling his coffee and growing his business throughout the mid 1900s until it was purchased by Billy Smith in 1950. Smith changed the company’s name to Royal Cup Coffee that same year.

“Batterton’s tradition of ‘community’ lives on today through our community service efforts, and in our own selling efforts, which are anchored by the personal brew demonstrations for potential customers,” said Howard Chapman, vice president and division manager at Royal Cup Coffee.  

Tradition of growth

By the mid-1980s, Bill Smith, Jr. was running the company and expanded when and where people could enjoy a Royal Cup. He was approached by some of his friends in the business community to obtain his fine coffee in their offices. They were used to enjoying Royal Cup Coffees at local restaurants and wanted their employees to have access to it in the workplace. In order to meet this new demand, Smith, Jr. created the company’s office coffee service (OCS) division, a segment that continues to thrive.

“Royal Cup is strictly a business-to-business provider, and our main mission is to equip our customers to succeed through integrated product, equipment and service program,” said Chapman. “We often work in concert with our customers marketing teams to create unique coffee brands that are owned by the customer.”

The OCS division is unique among its competitors in that it is part of a large hospitality-focused roaster. “So, when our prospective customers learn that their employees already enjoy our coffees at places like Ritz Carlton Hotels, Holiday Inn Express, First Watch, Bruegger's Bagels, and many other places, they know our coffees will be accepted,” said Chapman.  

Following in the footsteps of the company’s foodservice division's system, the OCS division developed the Royal Connection Partnership for OCS delivery. “We regularly compete for national business with other large national companies,” said Chapman. “The success of that Royal Connection Partnership has been extraordinary over the past few years.”

The company’s OCS division has expanded its footprint into the Midwest as well as key markets in Colorado, Texas and Arizona. The OCS division now operates direct routes in 18 states.

On pace with change

Despite its ongoing success, Royal Cup Coffee constantly looks for ways in which it can grow and thrive in the ever-changing culture of coffee, including implementing state-of-the-art customer relationship management (CRM) systems, refining route management technologies and leveraging web capabilities company-wide.

Royal Cup, which now reaches markets throughout the U.S., Mexico and the Caribbean, has embarked on its largest plant expansion in its history. This two-year project will add capacity and modernize and further automate most areas of the company’s plant and distribution capabilities. "In my 23 years here at Royal Cup, I've never been more excited about the direction of our company, and opportunities that lay ahead,” Chapman concluded.