Running a coffee shop with an assist from helpful home devices.
Former college football star Eric LeGrand became partially paralyzed during a game. Now he’s managing his business with the help of Google Nest and Pixel products.

Running a coffee shop is a bit like juggling.

It’s a non-stop, fast-paced balancing act that involves keeping customers happy, staff on task, orders flowing, inventory stocked, appliances humming, and the shop itself clean and welcoming. 

Former Rutgers University football star Eric LeGrand does much of this juggling from his wheelchair. LeGrand, who has been partially paralyzed from the shoulders down for more than a decade following a neck injury in a football game against Army, focuses on the tasks of running the shop, and smart home devices from Google allow him to oversee much of what goes on at LeGrand Coffee House directly from his Google Pixel

“Because Pixel is so reliable, I can focus less on the minute-to-minute action of the shop, and focus more on building our business and bringing people together,” he says.

Pixel 7 Pro
The all-pro Google phone.
Creating community in the pandemic

LeGrand came up with the idea for a coffee shop during the pandemic. “Like everyone else, I was sitting at home,” he says. “I kept thinking ‘What can I do to bring people together? What does this community want and need?’” The answer: coffee and conversation. The cafe opened in May 2022 to a line out the door and around the corner from its Woodbridge Township, New Jersey location. 

Since he gets around in a wheelchair, LeGrand naturally wanted his cafe to be accessible to all. To that end, the space was designed with wide aisles and doors, and with tables of various heights to accommodate people with different levels of mobility and different needs. 

Smart home beyond the home

While smart home devices were designed primarily for use in homes and apartments, a growing number of entrepreneurs are finding ways in which they can help run their businesses, too. 

At LeGrand Coffee House, two Nest Audio speakers play whatever mix of music the baristas are in the mood for on any given day. They just connect their phones via Bluetooth and their selection plays through all of the speakers. “I want them to be able to do their thing,” LeGrand says. “They should be able to express themselves and have some fun with it.” 

Because no modern coffee shop is complete without powerful Wi-Fi, LeGrand installed Nest Wifi, creating a mesh network that covers the entire space. “My guests need internet!” he says. It’s not only for the guests – it helps his workers, too, who need reliable Wi-Fi to operate the point-of-sale system and manage orders and deliveries from suppliers. “We’ve never had one single complaint about the Wi-Fi,” he says.   

LeGrand also relies on a Nest Thermostat to turn the temperature up or down during and outside of business hours. As soon as everyone leaves for the day, the Nest Thermostat kicks into Eco mode. If the place needs to be a little warmer or cooler, he can make adjustments through the Google Home app on his Pixel phone, which he controls with his voice using Google Assistant.2 “Even if I’m not there, I can adjust the temperature of the cafe based on feedback from the staff,” he says. The energy savings he gets from the Nest Thermostat are good for his business and for the environment.1

Tools to run a business with your voice

The coffee shop had a little help from Google in getting started. “The accessibilities team had been working with Eric,” says Michelle Cheng, enterprise marketing lead for devices and services at Google. “We showed him how Google could be helpful to him as a business owner.” 

The Small Business Advisor program helped connect LeGrand with a Google Business account that helped kick-start his business, and his team set up devices around the shop. Now, with a Google Pixel propped up on his wheelchair, he has a powerful dashboard that helps him stay on top of his shop’s needs, whether he wants to adjust the lights, music, or temperature, or check out the security cameras.

From home, Google Pixel still allows Eric to be connected with his business. Each morning when he wakes up, LeGrand checks the Nest Cams that let him see how the coffee shop is doing. One camera focuses on the front of the shop, where he can see customers coming in. Another gives him a view of the kitchen, where the staff prepares pastries during the day to offer along with drinks made from LeGrand-branded coffee beans. He also has a Nest Cam in his office, which he locks overnight, and one outside, trained on the front entryway and parking area. Nest Protect smoke and CO alarms are installed throughout the shop.

It’s energizing, says LeGrand, to see his dream come to life – even in the quiet hours of the night. “Sometimes, it’ll be 9:30 or 10:00 at night and I’ll get the urge to check and make sure the alarm is activated,” says LeGrand. “It gives me such peace of mind to be able to take a quick look and see that everything’s okay.”

For more information about how Pixel can be used at your business visit: https://pixel.google/business

Takeaways
Google Pixel and Google Nest allow LeGrand to oversee much of what goes on in his store directly from his Google PixelHe can make adjustments through the Google Home app on his phone, which he controls with his voice through Google AssistantThe energy savings he gets from the Nest Thermostat are good for his business and for the environment1
Pixel 7 Pro
The all-pro Google phone.
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  1. Independent studies conducted in the US showed that Nest thermostats saved people an average of 10% to 12% on heating and 15% on cooling. Individual savings are not guaranteed. Learn more about savings with Nest thermostats.

  2. Voice control with Google Assistant requires a compatible smart device.