344: Politics in the restaurant industry with Mary Allen Lindemann

In 1994 Mary Allen Lindemann and Allen Spear opened their first Coffee By Design coffeehouse in Portland, Maine. 23 years later, what started as a humble coffeehouse with a part-time barista has grown into a sustainable business that currently employs 60 individuals in its 5 coffeehouses and its sustainably sourced roastery. Their growth is attributed to their fantastic employees, exceptional coffee, and strong underlying belief that what we do can make a difference.

In this episode we discuss: Doing what is right for YOU! Community. How do you define success? Making sure your job is right for you. Proving your doubters wrong. Choosing the right market for your concept. What it means to truly be an entrepreneur. How politics can come into play when opening a business. Honoring your mistakes. Staying true to who you are. Slow growth. Good communication with your team. Doing good for your community and getting your name out there in other ways. Don’t be afraid to be you. Knowing your numbers.

Show notes…

Favorite Success Quote or Mantra.

What is meant to be for you will not pass you by. We are the change we want to see in our communities.

Today’s Sponsor


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Career Challenge or Failure

Not being OK with selling one of Coffee By Design’s locations. Mary Allen was not initially comfortable with giving up one of the company’s locations and had to realize it was the best decision for the company.

Knowledge bombs

  1. Which “it factor” habit, trait, or characteristic you believe most contributes to your success?

    Joy. We’re a joyful company. remind yourself how lucky you are.

  2. What is your biggest weakness?

    I give away more than I should.

  3. What is one piece of advice you have for leading others?

    You are not their parent. You can love your employees but at the end of the day you are their employer and you need to have certain expectations for that.

  4. What’s one question you ask or thing you look for during an interview?

    With access to the internet these days I ask if they know anything about our business. What sign of the zodiac are you? Too many pieces can be a bad thing. Tell me the first live concert you went to, who were you with and how did it make you feel?

  5. What’s a current challenge? How are you dealing with it?

    Communication in our company and to our greater community. I have just become more hands-on.

  6. What’s one thing (besides food) your restaurant does well and separates you from other restaurants?

    Making everyone who walks through the door feel welcome. Staying current while maintaining our original vision.

  7. What’s one book we must read to become a better person or restaurant owner?

    Growing A Business by Paul Hawken

  8. What’s one piece of technology you’ve adopted in your restaurant and how has it influence operations?

    Our new roasters. Loring company in California created a very environmentally-friendly roaster. Also, SQUARE.

  9. With all the knowledge you have now if you could go back in time and give your past self one piece of business advice, What would it be and why?

    Go on vacation. Don’t take life so seriously.

  10. What is one question you think should be added to this interview?

    More about locally-owned businesses.

Contact Info

Coffee By Design
1 Diamond Street
Portland, ME 04101


Coffee By Design on Facebook

Thanks for Listening!

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Huge thanks to Mary Allen Lindemann for joining me for another awesome episode. Until next time!