Thursday, September 5, 2013

Michigan Premium Coffee Is A Mixed Bag: Biggby Coffee Is Hit Or Miss!

The Good: Some delicious coffees, Good bagels, Reasonably priced.
The Bad: Some thoroughly mediocre drinks, Lousy customer service.
The Basics: Biggby Coffee is convenient and fun for Michiganders, but it is hardly the best coffee chain in the nation.

With my wife now working away from home, I traveled with her the first few days to her new restaurant job because, for all the wonderful things about her, remember directions is not one. But, given how far away her new job is, while she was in training, I found myself hanging out at a coffee shop for the hours she was working. The place was Biggby Coffee and I have enjoyed the chain since I moved to Michigan a year ago. In fact, Biggby Coffee was one of the treats I would buy myself while on the road when I was still visiting my wife during the initial part of our courtship. So, I was a little surprised to discover that objectively viewing the Michigan-based chain for the purposes of review, Biggby Coffee stacked up poorly against the other major coffeehouse chains I have reviewed so far.

The quality of Biggby Coffee’s drinks was more erratic than, for example, Tim Hortons (reviewed here!) and the customer service, I realized the longer I hung out at one (as opposed to just going through the drive-thru) was a lot less impressive than I would have liked. The result is a small chain that is more average than extraordinary and that is disappointing for coffee lovers.


Biggby Coffee is a chain of coffee shops that is growing throughout the Midwestern United States, though I’ve only found them in Michigan. They are pretty well spread-out throughout Michigan, though, with only one Biggby about every hundred miles. Supposedly, they are expanding fast through Ohio, Indiana, Wisconsin, Minnesota and then in Texas and South Carolina.

Biggby Coffee is a franchise-operated coffee shop that specializes in coffees and a very limited section of baked goods like bagels, cookies, and scones. Biggby Coffee has a bright orange and black logo that is just a giant B.

The average Biggby Coffee shop that I've experienced opens into a discrete standing area where patrons are filed up to a counter where they place their order, pay and are ushered toward a nearby area to pick up drinks (especially if it is busy). Most locations have a sitting area with ten or fifteen tables and a couple of comfy chairs that customers may sit at to eat. Cleanliness of these facilities seems universally great. The Biggby Coffee shops I have visited have each been spotless.

I only ate in one of the Biggby Coffee shops I visited, though I used the drive-thru at at least two others. The comfy chairs in the sitting area really were as comfortable as they appeared, which was nice!


Like most fast food restaurants, Biggby Coffee does not so much have waitstaff as it has cashier/cooks who take orders, money and assemble orders. The workers at the one I spent a good deal of time at the last few days was interesting in that they were attentive during the order taking and not beyond. They asked what I wanted politely enough and they took my money, but they were not at all service or experience oriented. As a result, the moment they took my order and money, the workers – who were all high school/young college age people (save a maternal manager who might have been thirty) – went back to talking amongst themselves.

While sitting and enjoying my coffee and food one morning, I watched as the entire staff came out to sit with the boyfriend of one of the workers, completely neglecting their counter and, as importantly, basic tasks like restocking the empty napkin container and spoons (both of which I had a need for and had called their attention to when I placed my order). And, as stupid as it might sound, I found the lack of service became a serious detraction to actually enjoying the meal I had one morning at Biggby Coffee. I arrived well after the morning rush and I was the only customer actually buying anything. When I bought a bagel, the employee asked if I wanted it toasted (I did and it wasn’t) and if I wanted cream cheese (they provided me with the wrong cream cheese – the full-fat, as opposed to the reduced/no fat they offered and I requested). The thing that got me (and I’m not sure if this is just me or not) but I found myself bothered by the fact that they didn’t put the cream cheese on the bagel. This might seem stupid, but in the time it took for them to notice the bagel was out of the toaster wheel thing and bring it to me and for me to reach my seat and get it out of the thin paper wrapper, it was cold enough that the bagel was cooled down by the cream cheese, as opposed to the bagel being hot enough to warm up the cream cheese and be delightful. At Tim Hortons and Dunkin’ Donuts, the staff always asked when I ordered a bagel with cream cheese and at Biggby Coffee, it felt cheap that they didn’t ask if I was dining in or taking it to-go and then follow up with actually offering to take care of my food. (It might seem like a nitpick, but if I wanted to have a cold bagel I cheesed up myself, I could have done that at home for 1/5th the price!).

On another day, I ordered a baked delight with my coffee and when the employee pulled the one out of the case that had only one visible chocolate chip (as opposed to the four or twelve on the one I ended up with), she acted like it was a huge imposition to swap the cake for one I might actually enjoy.

So, the employees at Biggby Coffee that I have dealt with face to face have been surprisingly unhelpful and social amongst themselves without enhancing the experience of going out to coffee at Biggby Coffee.


Biggby Coffee features coffee, tea, and (seasonally) ciders. They also have a shake – which they call a Freeze – and about ten different baked goods each time I visited. The only disappointment on the beverage front I had was the Mint Chip Freeze. The Mint Chip Freeze is not a coffee drink or even a milk-based shake. Instead, it is a comparatively weak mint syrup, a little bit of milk, chocolate chips and a lot of ice chips. The fact that ice is the primary medium makes this drink an unfortunately watered-down disappointment. Fortunately, it is the exception to the rule at Biggby Coffee.

One of the best drinks I’ve tried at Biggby Coffee is the Mint Mocha Latte. Hot or as an iced beverage, the Mint Mocha is exceptional. It smells like a strong coffee/chocolate drink and the aroma is indicative of its flavor. The primary taste is a powerful, right, deep chocolate flavor and it finishes with a cool, peppermint kick that leaves the mouth feeling fresh and satisfied. While it is not a great thirst quencher, it is a sweet, flavorful drink that is a dessert of its own.

The dessert bar I tried was very good. Chocolatey, coconut covered and sweet, but not overly dry, the dessert bars at Biggby Coffee are delicious. The dessert bar was a bit pricy, at almost the same cost as the largest coffee; for the 4” by 2” by 1 ½” thick dessert bar, that seemed expensive to me.

The asiago bagel I had was good and soft, but not richly cheese flavored and not superlative for the price.


Biggby Coffee is a mid-price range coffee shop that might be spreading out across the country, but while the franchise might have initially intrigued me, it is not my first choice for coffee out and much more average than at all noteworthy.

For other restaurants, be sure to check out my reviews of:
Pancheros Mexican Grill
La Senorita Mexican Restaurant


For other restaurant reviews, please visit my Food And Drink Review Index Page for an organized listing of all my restaurant reviews!

© 2013 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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