Danny Meyer, the millionaire Shake Shack founder and restaurateur, joins tech veterans Jack Dorsey and Kevin Systrom in putting his money behind high-end coffee.

On Monday, Meyer's Union Square Hospitality Group, or USHG, announced a strategic investment in Joe Coffee, an independent roaster based in New York. Terms of the deal were not disclosed, though the companies say that the capital will help Joe Coffee to expand across New York City and Philadelphia. USHG declined to provide a more detailed comment on the deal.

"Historically we've had the privilege of investing in some incredibly special companies whose cultures, leaders, and innovative business models caught our eyes, and Joe is no different," said Meyer of his decision to invest in Joe Coffee. The company previously invested in Tender Greens, a chain of fine casual restaurants based in Culver City, California.

Joe Coffee's founder and president, Jonathan Rubenstein, has worked closely with USHG in the past, serving as the exclusive supplier for its café location in the 9/11 Memorial Pavilion. He has also guest judged the group's Barista Olympics, an annual competition featuring the single best barista from each of USHG's restaurants. Joe Coffee launched more than 13 years ago in Manhattan's West Village, and has since grown to more than 14 locations nationwide.

"With this new funding, we will continue to do what we love--roast, brew and serve the best quality coffee with genuine hospitality--and now we are excited to bring Joe to even more great communities across the country," Rubenstein said in a statement.

Of course, Joe Coffee is one of many entrants in the crowded high-end coffee industry, where companies justify steep prices by promising quality, consistency, and ethically sourced ingredients. These startups tend to view coffee as an artisanal product, rather than as a mere commodity, and have racked up millions of dollars' worth of venture capital funding to that end.

Blue Bottle Coffee, for example, has raised more than $120 million to date, from backers including Instagram co-founder Kevin Systrom and the billionaire investor Chris Sacca. Meanwhile, the San Francisco-based roaster Sightglass counts Jack Dorsey, the co-founder of Twitter and Square, among its investors. Competitor Philz has also attracted more than $75 million from venture firm TPG Growth and from celebrities Jonah Hill and rappers Nasir "Nas" Jones and Snoop Dogg.

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Published on: Jan 23, 2017