Insomnia Cookies – Case Study

insomnia cookies picture of 8 cookies in a box

About Insomnia Cookies

Started in 2003 by a college student in his dorm room, Insomnia Cookies is a chain of bakeries in the United States that specializes in delivering cookies to the doors of individuals and companies alike. Creator Seth Berkowitz got the idea from his time at the University of Pennsylvania where he would bake and deliver cookies to students on campus late at night. After the local newspaper ran a story about his cookie delivery business, Berkowitz started getting up to 30 orders a night and soon realized he needed help in order to expand the business.

Deciding to turn his hobby into a fully-fledged business, Berkowitz launched Insomnia Cookies mirroring the hours he would deliver to fellow students on campus – from 10 am all the way to 3 am daily. The summer after graduating, Berkowitz opened three shops around the country but it took some time for him to come up with the best business model. At first, he tried a delivery-only model. Then he tried selling from trucks. Then ultimately, he ended up opening brick-and-mortar shops.

Today, Insomnia Cookies has 46 locations across the country, with an average of two new locations opening each month. The company has 25 corporate employees and more than 800 people working in its retail shops. With over 150+ locations across the United States, the company continues to grow and diversify their product offerings expanding to include cookie cakes, brownies, and ice cream.

Key Takeaways

  • Insomnia Cookies’ mission statement is to provide dependable late-night food delivery to college students.
  • Although many chains offer food delivery, few are open longer than the bars are and offer a flavour to satisfy everyone, including vegans and those who cannot eat gluten.
  • 64% of marketing executives indicated that they believe word of mouth is the most effective form of marketing, so creating a marketing representative program where students promote the business around campus works as a win-win for the company

The Bakery Industry

The baking industry generates more than $30 billion in revenue each year. The American Baker’s Association reports the economic impact of baked goods produced and sold in the U.S. totals $423 billion. The market for baked goods is expected to grow around 1 percent per annum in the coming decade. Consumption is affected by changes in disposable income, consumer preferences and economic conditions. With Krispy Kreme Doughnut Corp. has acquired a majority stake in the cookie chain in 2018, Insomnia Cookies were able to make a dent in the highly fragmented market.


Insomnia Cookies Business Model

Large commercial bakeries will continue to dominate the competition in the market because the other firms are small and the market is highly fragmented. However, with their business model, Insomnia Cookies have been able to carve out a dent for themselves in the industry. Being in full control of the operation of each of its locations gave Insomnia Cookies much greater power to be innovative and directly engaging with employees.

Berkowitz was quoted saying, “building a strong team from the start is one of the most important ways to transition from a college startup to a successful, growing business. You need to surround yourself with great people and let go of the reins to let people come in and help you.” This approach gave Insomnia Cookies the ability to hire managers to work together not only for the benefit of the network but for the company as a whole.


Insomnia Cookies Success Factors

Insomnia Cookie

Niche Audience

Offering a very specific product, to a target market of college students at a very precise time (late nights) the opportunity to employ new media to accomplish the Insomnia Cookies mission statement of providing dependable late-night food delivery to college students are limitless. The company’s main goal is to pursue overall revenue growth through customer retention and franchise growth through high visibility and brand awareness. In order to reach this goal, Insomnia Cookies needs to identify what it does for its customers and communicate that.


Product Differentiation

Needing to become thought leaders and integrate the importance of a “cookie break” in the minds of students, Insomnia Cookies needed to create online content that would turn browsers into buyers as college students have plenty of options for late-night food delivery. Insomnia’s strength, and differentiation from a run-of-the-mill bakery, comes from its late-night delivery services and that word of mouth is incredibly strong on college campuses.

The company’s Senior Director of Marketing, Megan Bruton, was quoted by CNBC that college campuses were “where the business started and with good reason. It is music to any college student’s ears after a long night of studying, or being out until the bars close.” Although many chains offer food delivery, few are open longer than the bars are and offer a flavour to satisfy everyone, including vegans and those who cannot eat gluten.


Successful Positioning

College was the perfect place for a simple business plan as college students don’t always have the most motivation when it comes to cooking and baking and often lack the time to bake a warm, fresh, chewy cookie for themselves. Berkowitz strategically positioned his shops to be located near campus to attract the students pulling an all-night study session or those who happen to get a case of the late-night munchies. Insomnia Cookies also offers marketing partnerships with sampling events for college students. Opening near a college campus is a popular business model because college students are somewhat restricted to local options, stay up late studying or partying, and word of mouth travels incredibly fast.


Word of Mouth Marketing

An initiative the company does offer is a campus marketing representative program. Qualified students can get paid to promote the store through hosting sampling events and posting promotional material around campus. In a recent study, 64% of marketing executives indicated that they believe word of mouth is the most effective form of marketing, so creating a marketing representative program where students promote the business around campus works as a win-win for the company as the organization receives positive publicity that they are supporting college students and generating word of mouth advertising through campuses.


Insomnia Cookies – Looking Ahead

Consumers are increasingly looking for healthier options as wellbeing diets and fads sweep the nation. With low industry growth, it will become more and more important for Insomnia Cookies to cater to a larger variety of tastes and dietary preferences including those who are wheat intolerant and vegan.

Some reports value Insomnia Cookies at $500 million and the company does not plan on slowing down anytime soon. Looking to continue to grow to college towns worldwide, Insomnia Cookies continues its operations relying on word of mouth marketing and strategic store placements near its niche audience to sell dozens and dozens of cookies f

Recommended Resources:

Uncover your strengths and weaknesses with our complimentary assessment. Boost your effectiveness at work and with your team.

Free Resource Library: Access our extensive collection of valuable resources for instant support in your personal and professional growth.

Explore Our Course Library:

Enhance your leadership skills with our diverse selection of courses. Take your abilities to the next level and become a more effective leader and team player.


Our Clients Love the Professional Leadership Institute

Your team will, too! Check out some reviews from our students.
The PLI program was invaluable to our network.
The range of topics delivered, the open dialogue, experience, and examples that PLI brought to each session were outstanding and provided a path for our Franchisees and Managers to look at leadership, coaching, and connecting with their teams in a new light. Many have implemented these strategies in their bakeries and have seen immediate results.
Michelle C.
COBS Bread
Highly recommend to help your team move forward
We have locations around BC and Alberta, so getting people on the same page can be very difficult... Until now. Our entire management team and location managers take the same great courses and then meet monthly online with our coach to apply it to our situation. People are engaged, the courses are excellent, we love our coach, and we are all learning together!
Jason Fawcett
President, Kelson Group
The result has been a transformation of our culture. 
We decided to implement PLI's strategies across the country in over 150 locations and over 3500 employees.  The result has been a transformation of our culture.  People's lives have been positively impacted - professionally and personally.  Morale is high and sales and profits are up as a result.
Daryl Verbeek
Daryl Verbeek
We’ve learned how to fix ongoing personnel issues once and for all
The roadmap laid out set our business up to quintuple in sales.  We've learned how to fix ongoing personnel issues once and for all, attract top talent, and spend our time focused on results, not internal staffing problems.  I highly recommend PLI to you - it's worked for us!
John DeJong
Satisfied Client
I had no idea that running a business could be this fun!
In less than 18 months of working with Trevor, he has transformed my business from being average to exceptional, where mediocrity is not acceptable, where being great is standard.  Working with PLI has allowed me to realize my dream of not simply owning a job, but owning a business.
Justin Bontkes
Principal, Caliber Projects
Our culture has taken major steps forward this year
Our culture has taken major steps forward this year with Trevor’s help.  He is funny, relatable, and his tools are very very practical and have helped us focus and upgrade our teams throughout our retail network. Trevor recently spoke to an employee group, and one person remarked, “I could listen to Trevor all day.”   We would highly recommend Trevor.
Stan Pridham
Founder, KMS Tools
The results have been remarkable
At first, we resisted, “This just won’t work with a law firm.” But we persisted and the results have been remarkable: our client base and profits have steadily improved, and staff engagement and morale is the healthiest its ever been.
Doug Lester
Partner, RDM Lawyers
Helped our fast-growing business become what it is today
I've experienced PLI's approach first hand and it's been crucial to sustaining our growth.  I can't imagine a business that wouldn't benefit greatly from his help.
Brian Antenbring
Founder, TEEMA
Provided practical ways to make positive changes
Trevor was incredibly well-received by the entire organization. He was able to articulate people issues that many of our franchisees were experiencing and provided them with practical ways to make positive changes. We have implemented the Star Chart tool across the organization and see it as vital to building happy, effective teams.
Aaron Gillespie
President, COBS Bread
Scroll to Top

Start Learning Today

For Individuals

Unlock your potential and accelerate your career with sought-after management and leadership skills.


Transform Your Organization

For Teams

Book a consultation to discuss your challenges and discover how we can help you build a winning team.


Sign Up For Weekly Tips!

Get Weekly Coaching Tips Straight To Your Inbox Every Monday.