Tiff’s Treats Gets Ready to Deploy A.I. in Messaging
Austin, Texas-based warm-cookie bakery brand also adds delivery-only units as it expands.
Tiff’s Treats, the warm-cookie delivery brand, plans to unveil artificial intelligence in mid-September to help customers write messages on their gifts, the company founders said.
The Austin, Texas-based company, which has 90 brick and mortar locations, is also expanding to California with pop-up locations that are for delivery only with no walk-in sales.
“When you’re placing your order there’s a spot for a gift message,” explained Leon Chen, co-founder, chairman and CEO of Tiff’s Treats, in an interview. “If you don’t know what to say — or you just want A.I. to write it — you can prompt it for a sentiment.
“If you want it to be funny, sentimental, caring or sweet for the occasion,” Chen said, “A.I. will actually write it for you.”
The new feature, available online with the ordering interface, will be rolled out in mid-September, said Tiffany Taylor Chen, Leon Chen’s wife, co-founder and chief brand officer of Tiff’s Treats.
Tiff’s Treats has 90 locations in Colorado, Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, Tennessee and Texas. It is entering the California market with “pop-up” locations in Beverly Hills, La Jolla, Manhattan Beach, Newport Beach and Westlake Village. All the locations are company-owned.
Tiffany Chen said, “At each one of these locations, you can order and get cookies delivered to you straight out of the oven.” The non-California locations offer walk-up sales where “you can come into the store and grab a cookie or pick up a set of warm-out-of-the oven cookies as well,” she said.
Leon Chen added: “We’re continuing to open retail locations, but because we do so much in gifting — whether it’s corporate gifting or friends and family gifting — across the nation, we’ve recently been opening up delivery points where they’re not retail storefronts but really pop-up delivery services. Our first five cities are in Southern California.”
The pop-up store expansion, Leon Chen said, offers the advantage of going “where the demand is and not have to wait a year and a half to site-select, permit, build. We’re able to turn on delivery when we see fit, when we have the demand in a certain area, and then go back through and then open locations later on.” The company works with restaurants and partnership groups for the delivery-only locations, he added.
Tiff’s Treats in May announced a collaboration and a strategic investment in bite-sized cupcake brand Baked by Melissa. The two brands in May released a limited-edition collection of cookie-inspired cupcakes available in-store or for local delivery. Flavors include Cookie Dough, Red Velvet and Triple Chocolate Fudge as well as Snickerdoodle, Naughty Brownie and Salted Caramel Blondie.
Leon Chen and Tiffany Taylor Chen, who married in 2010, started the company in 1999, when they both were 19 years old and sophomore students at the University of Texas-Austin.
“The whole business got started when I asked Tiff out on a date,” Leon Chen recalled. “She had said, ‘Yes.’ But then she didn’t show up; so she stood me up.”
Tiffany Chen recalled the origin story slightly differently: “I did stand him up. But I also used to bake cookies as one of my hobbies. So as an apology, I baked a set of cookies, drove over to his house and then gave him this fresh set of warm chocolate chip cookies. It was just a light bulb moment: We should deliver warm cookies. That was Leon’s idea actually.”
Two weeks later, they opened Tiff’s Treats out of Leon Chen’s apartment kitchen.
“We started with a small menu — maybe six different kinds,” Tiffany Chen said. “Chocolate chip is obviously the mainstay and still is today the most popular selection for sure, but we had some of the other classics as well.”
The cookies, with the prepared dough sent to each location and then baked off at the unit, are still served warm, she said. “I have a box of warm ones right here so they all come in this cute little box with a blue bow on them. They’re really great for gifting, so it’s perfect to be sending to somebody.”
Leon Chen said the company intends to continue expanding with the company-owned store model, but he did not rule out licensing or franchising.
He added that Tiff’s Treats have become a way for individuals and corporations to communicate with friends, family and customers.
“What we’ve seen throughout our years is people use our cookies as a means of communicating and sharing in these incredible moments,” Leon Chen said. “We’ll have people write in or e-mail in and say that some of their favorite moments of life was shared because they sent their loved ones Tiff’s Treats.”