Hospitality In Culture with Nick Bayer (’00)

Nick’s Story: So Much More than Coffee

“I can guarantee you I couldn’t even spell the word entrepreneurship when I came here to Cornell.”

If you could go back in time and tell a freshman Nick Bayer (’00) that he would one day become an entrepreneur, he may very well have laughed the comment off. After interning in three completely different industries over the course of three summers at Cornell, he found that any of them could become his job, but he wanted more. He liked them all, but loved none of them; he hadn’t yet found his calling. He adamantly refused to spend his career doing anything less than something he absolutely loved. He knew that what he was “put on this earth to do” was still out there, waiting for him.

IBayert was in 2005 in a seemingly nondescript coffee shop just North of Denver that Bayer had his light bulb moment. The shop’s human experience—the inclusiveness, the community, the unique bustle—was unlike anything he had ever seen. “It wasn’t that I couldn’t wait to grind espresso . . . it was that I couldn’t wait to impact people’s lives through hospitality; through coffee shops.” While national coffee chains like Starbucks perfected predictability and local cafes thrived in regional authenticity, Bayer insisted that the missing link was an unmistakable human connection: the intangible factor that makes an exceptional coffee shop distinct from any other environment.

In true entrepreneurial fashion, Bayer swiftly quit his job as a consultant and maxed out his American Express card to open the very first Saxbys Coffee Shop. Saxbys continued to expand through franchising, driven by Bayer’s core principles of hospitality, community, and an unparalleled customer connection. Today, 30 Saxbys cafes embody the same commitment to quality and an unforgettable customer experience. Guided by the simple mission statement “make life better,” Saxbys has come to embody so much more than just a place for a great cup of coffee.


During his presentation, Bayer highlighted some key insights that he has picked up along his journey. He hopes that aspiring entrepreneurs can learn from his successes and well as his shortcomings:

  1. Go out of your way to have new, unique experiences.
  2. Never pass up the opportunity to try something you’re unfamiliar with.
  3. Keep in mind the critical importance of a strong, yet flexible, business plan. Bayer explains, “I liken a great business plan to a GPS. I’ve never heard of someone who wrote a business plan and executed it to plan; it doesn’t happen. When things go wrong, you go back and you adjust – like rerouting after a wrong turn.”
  4. Stay grounded in humanity, and focus on your connection with the people around you.
  5. Buy into the underrated value of failure. As Bayer puts it, “You have to fail in order to get experience. You should not franchise until you’ve had both success and failure.”

Saxbys3Saxbys Experiential Learning FC

On April 13, 2015, Saxbys Experiential Learning FC was launched at Drexel University. The idea is simple—a Saxbys café run entirely by student entrepreneurs. “We decided to let entrepreneurs run Saxbys . . . period,” explains Bayer. This program provides the hands-on experience-based learning that simply cannot be taught in a classroom setting. Bayer hopes to expand Experiential Learning FC to Cornell’s Campus in the near future.

As Bayer summarizes, “This is a business of humanity. This is not just a company who’s sole and only purpose is maximizing profits. This is a business that is going to continue to impact human lives.”

If you’re interested in learning more about Saxbys, visit them at their website