Affiliate R&D: The Coffee Box


It never ceases to amaze me at how much ingenuity box clienteles have to offer.  If I’ve learned anything over the years it’s that you’ll want to regularly pick the brains of your members for ideas on how to improve the gym experience you offer. After all, nobody knows what to look for in a gym more than the ones actually paying the big bucks to attend.  Every once in a while you’ll come across a gem of an idea that will become part of the inner workings of your box for a long time.

Introducing The Paleo Grind, a coffee shop created and operated out of Reebok CrossFit Cardiff in Cardiff, Wales. No doubt, countless other gyms offer coffee to their members. Where Reebok CrossFit Cardiff goes above and beyond is by experimenting with bringing the actual coffee shop experience, the social congregation, the relaxed ambiance, the amazing aromas, directly to its members.  CrossFitters’ love of coffee is well documented. Perhaps combining the two, literally, is just what your gym needs? The project is still in its infancy and its success, so far, undetermined, but we were so intrigued with the idea that we couldn’t wait to share it with the rest of the world.

How It All Began
The Paleo Grind is the brainchild of James Henderson, a long-time, loyal member of Reebok CrossFit Cardiff. He loved the gym and his experience so much that he began thinking of ways to give back.

“[My motivation], primarily, was to make the box better. Whilst I am not the box owner, I feel passionately about it and what it has done for me, so it is only natural that I want to improve it.”

The fact that James feels so strongly about his gym is testament to the work they are doing over there at Reebok CrossFit Cardiff. James long observed the lingering habits of himself and fellow members, both pre and post WOD, and quickly realized that the gym could benefit from a designated gathering spot. He initially experimented (with the approval of the owner) by placing a couch in a dark corner of the gym near a small store room to see if people would take the bait. Sure enough, people began choosing the couch as their hangout area of choice. The addition of a small light was the icing on the cake. Before long James realized the potential of the space. For him, it was only natural that the area also served coffee.

You see, James is pretty passionate about coffee too (as I suspect many CrossFitters to be). He’d long investigated and observed the health and performance benefits coffee has to offer. His goal was to pass on that knowledge to his fellow CrossFitters. As the spot became more and more popular, James approached the affiliate owner and, ultimately, came to an agreement regarding the creation, ownership, and operation of an officially licensed coffee shop. Alas, The Paleo Grind was born.

“I have come to a sensible arrangement with the box owners that balances the benefits of the coffee shop for members, with the [utilization] of the space and facilities.”



The Paleo Grind is a full service coffee shop, offering up an assortment of coffee and pastry options. Everything Paleo, of course. It is open to both Reebok CrossFit Cardiff members and the public. The plan is to eventually market it to the surrounding commercial and residential areas, giving new people a cool excuse to stop on by and experience CrossFit for the first time.

“Its only fair to the box that cross-selling works both ways.”

The operating hours currently orient themselves around James’ day job. They’ve been carefully chosen to fit in with peak gym demand times, but he’s also been able to get a few other members to help him run it when he’s not around.

The Product


As for the actual coffee, The Paleo Grind believes in the use of healthy fats. James is well aware of the recent Bulletproof coffee craze, but he also believes in combining other fat sources with coffee for unique flavors and awesome benefits. On his menu are MCT oil, butter, cacao, and egg yolk. He’s experimented, on himself, with each long before Bulletproofs were all the rage. In that same time his performance in the gym has skyrocketed, as well as many of his health markers.

“My take on it is that there are a world of tasty fats out there that can be blended with coffee to provide a really wonderful drink. [It] just so happens to be healthy [AND] improve performance.”


James’s original intention with the shop is, and always has been, to educate others . While financial gain would be nice, it isn’t why he does what he does. The Paleo Grind differs from normal coffee shops because of the definite performance and health slant to the menu and DNA of the business. It falls perfectly in line with the nutrition principles promoted by the CrossFit methodology and the box itself.

“We don’t provide sugar and we’re proud of that. If someone asks for sugar I direct them to a sign on the wall.”

Don’t forget about the pastries! They also provide Paleo friendly treats, like cookies and cakes. All are made with Paleo-compliant ingredients like almond flour, honey, butter, etc. Healthy treats that ALSO taste delicious are going a long ways in helping teach people about the benefits of a natural, organic diet.

Benefits To The Box 


How does any of this benefit Reebok CrossFit Cardiff? That’s easy. People love hanging out at coffee shops. Add the time members are already spending at your box and you’ve got people that truly view your affiliate as a second home, literally. The result is a life-long, loyal member base. I’ve never met an affiliate owner that thought their members spending more time than necessary at the gym was a bad thing. After The Paleo Grind’s inception a noticeable improvement in gym cohesiveness and community has been observed. James comments, “People that normally only WOD together are now spending 20 minutes actually talking to each other. A question that I’m hearing quite often around the couches is, “So what is it that you do for a living?””

People that normally only WOD together are now spending 20 minutes actually talking to each other.

Dafydd Dennis, the owner of Reebok CrossFit Cardiff concurs.  Who better to notice the change in the community at the box than the owner himself?  Dafydd, I imagine with a giant grin on his face, remarks, “It has definitely caused the guys to stick around for longer, and others have actually driven here just to get a coffee and chill out on their rest days. Partly because their friends are here, as well as knowing that what they get is the real deal! Legit coffee!”

Remember, too, about the additional business that is likely to come from new people visiting the coffee shop for the first time.  Also, albeit indirectly, members and customers are learning about nutritional concepts and ideas like the benefits of healthy fats, and ways to make guilty-pleasure snacks more healthy (but still super tasty).

Advice To Others

For other gym owners looking to try something similar, James notes that, other than the initial time-suck to get it up and running, the demands aren’t that difficult. All in all, he spent around 1000 british pounds (about $1600) for his initial investment, but he stresses that it can be done with less if anyone has savvy shopping skills. It all depends on the amount of non-essential equipment and decor desired.  Unless the business is booming from the get-go, a heavy duty, commercial espresso machine isn’t necessary.  Something for around 200-300 british pounds ($320-$480) should suffice.  The rest is simply working capital, decor, and contingency money.  As for day-to-day costs, he’s assuming, roughly, an 80% profit margin on sales, which ultimately goes back into coffee, cups, milk, etc.

He also stresses that gym owners have multiple options regarding the actual business structure of the shop. An owner might simply choose to sublet some space for a fee, and, in turn, forgo the associated risks, rewards, and hassles of ownership. Another might decide to manage and operate one themselves as a non-core offering in addition to the gym services. James says that, really, it comes down to personal preference.

“Obviously if the coffee shop turns out to be massively profitable then the box owner may wish to take an increasing share of the ownership rather than the simplicity of a flat rent. These are all basic business decisions and will follow simple economics. Ultimately, there are also personal relationships as well as skill and experience at play, so simplicity normally prevails.”

Dafydd thinks that every box owner should consider something similar; “I absolutely think that box owners should do the same thing; anything that will increase the strength of the community is an opportunity that shouldn’t be missed.”


It’s still super early (only 3 weeks in) to understand any financial possibilities of such a venture, but, from the sound of it, the community benefits appear undeniable.  You can learn more about James Henderson’s project, The Paleo Grind, and its progress via their Facebook page.  We’ll also be giving periodic updates right here via our blog.  Are any other boxes experimenting with something similar?  Be sure to let us know via our Facebook and Twitter pages!

Sign Up (Free 30 Day Trial)

Get The Latest
Get the latest blogs as soon as they drop. Nothing else.