John’s Rockstars


Everyone loves a good dad joke. Some more than others. But perhaps none more than Caribou Coffee President & CEO, John Butcher. So it’s no surprise that this love of cheesy humor inspired one of the most prestigious awards a Caribou Coffee team member can earn—a Rockstar. Which is exactly what it sounds like – a rock with a star on it!

A Labor of Love

Brainstorming ways to recognize team members, John first thought about a trophy or plaque, but decided they’d take too long to make and didn’t feel authentically Caribou. At surface level, a Rockstar might seem silly—but the rocks with stars emblazoned in chalk are a surprising labor of love. “I find the rocks on the shoreline of Lake Superior,” explains John. “It’s where I’m happiest and most relaxed. It’s where I adventure and where I recharge. It has always been special to my family and me.”

john butcher collecting rocks along the shoreline of lake superior
“The perfect Rockstar has a flat bottom so it sits on a shelf or table, has two flat faces (one for a star and one for a small note), and has a unique characteristic or color,” explains John.

“When I was creating this award, I wanted it to reflect how personally special I think each recipient is and I couldn’t think of something more meaningful than a little piece of the place that is so important to me.”

Rockstars are the leaders of the pack, the true standouts that put others before themselves, drive results, develop great teams, and reflect our core values. Because of this, not just any rock will do.

The Caribou Connection

After collecting the rocks, John brings them home to wash and “chalk” them, with a special ode to our coffeehouses.

“I use the same chalk pens that our baristas use to make their name tags. Once the rock is chalked it needs a coat or two of clear lacquer to protect the chalk and highlight the color of the rock.”

A Rockstar award goes beyond a decorated piece of geology. Recipients also receive a handwritten note from John and a certificate to design their own custom-made Duluth Pack to accompany the winner on their own adventures. Duluth Packs are backpacks or duffel bags made by hand in Duluth, Minn. “They should last almost as long as the Rockstars I’m awarding,” laughs John.

Recognition is an important part of the culture here at Caribou. Team Members frequently share “sparks”— shoutouts and kudos, verbal or written, to teammates who embody our core values. John shares that
sentiment, too.

a rock with a painted star on it nestled among rocks on the shoreline of lake superior
Nestled along the shoreline of Lake Superior, a Rockstar award in the wild.

A Quirky Caribou Tradition

Previous Caribou CEOs also had their own quirky awards. First, there was the “Melonhead Award,” a play on words to award employees for using their melon/brain. You couldn’t leave the trophy on your desk forever though – or the watermelon would go bad! Along with the melon, winners would also get to design a pair of Chuck Taylor tennis shoes.

For a short while, there was also a “Bright Spot” award where the recipient would receive a pair of Ray Bans sunglasses of their choice.

“It’s important to me that our team knows how much they are appreciated…by their guests, by their teammates, and by me. Every team member at Caribou Coffee is positioned to impact the lives of dozens or hundreds of people on the daily…those that go consistently above and beyond have an opportunity to receive this recognition.”

John understands that while the Rockstar award is an honor, it can only begin to scratch the surface of recognizing the great deeds or performance at Caribou.

“Caribou Coffee is only a special brand because of the tremendous people that choose to be part of the journey we’re on to fulfill our Purpose to create day making experiences that spark a chain reaction of GOOD in the communities we serve,” he explains.

“I hope that recipients feel special and feel a small token of gratitude. It’s fun for me to walk in a store or walk by a desk and see a rock that someone won years ago.”