As a Cafe2U franchisee, Iain is always there to discuss football, weather or the latest affairs with his customers
Being an early bird has its beauty – you can watch the morning unfold while eagerly sipping your coffee. But for, Iain, it means preparing to serve your customers promptly with the perfect cuppa and a tasty snack while they are still in bed.
As a Cafe2U franchisee, he usually gets to his first stop by 6.45 am after receiving his sandwiches at home at 6.00 am. Before his last stop at 2.45 pm, he has already done around 34 stops for the day.
Preparation is the key
“My espresso machine and hot oven are turned on before arrival at stop one so that it is all hot and ready to serve,” Iain explained. “Customers, before 9.00 am, are still waking up and need their ‘wake up coffee’, and maybe breakfast served promptly and with a smile!
“However, there are others who want to discuss the football, the traffic jams on the A12, and of course the weather! You become a good listener in this job, and it is always interesting what people do get up to!”
But striking the right balance between quick service and a quality product is not easy.
Even at the end of training, it seems “somewhat daunting” but Iain says you learn how to be quicker and more confident “without losing the ability to make the customer feel special and important”.
Cuppa at peak times
Talking about his routine, Iain shared: “Between 6.45 am and 11.30 am on my round it should be mainly about the hot drinks – coffee, chocolate and tea – with some snacks, and some hot and cold food.
“Despite the fact that I have a lot of food-focused vans in my area, between 11.00 am and 1.15 pm is my peak food selling time, and this is because customers see my service as a reliable, high-quality lunchtime service, with the added benefit of getting coffee too.”
To minimise food waste, Iain tries to sell all his tasty snacks by 1.00 pm – just in time to clean the pie warmer and turn it off before he gets home.
He said: “Between 1.30 pm and finishing at 2.45 pm my hot drinks sales rise again, and I always rotate my sandwiches to make sure the ones that perish that day are at the front and discounted if need be.”
After work routine
Once finished for the day, Iain spends an hour cleaning the van and the machines at home, while restocking and cashing up the till.
“I am home again by 3.00 pm at the latest and I fill up with diesel on the way, as well as collect milk from Tesco’s, review my sandwich order for tomorrow, as well as clean the outside of the van if necessary,” he added.
Spreading the word
To make sure his customers are always in the loop about any specials and events, Iain and his wife Jenny also write a customer newsletter once a month. And a crucial part of their Cafe2U business is local marketing.
Iain said: “Using the tools and tips that Cafe2U gave me, as well as some of my own, I always do some marketing every week – probably about 30 minutes for the daily round because my round is well established, but I never stop because you never know what you will discover or who you will meet.
“Although you do receive leads for events via the Cafe2U website, you don’t know when they will come or how many, so I work six months in advance and try to stay close to home as possible – community, clubs, sports, enthusiasts, churches, schools, charity events, and customers – and I will attend approximately 12 per year, which suits me and family just fine. Jenny will help me out at events – both in the planning and on the day!”
Ups and downs
Running the coffee business also has its challenges.
Iain explained: “The weather makes it hard to maintain cleanliness standards in the winter, and I work hard on this, as well as always looking for ways of improving the round, and how it operates – recruiting new customers, new stops, and new ways of up-selling! I hate paying for the equipment servicing, but I know it is necessary!”
But on the flip side?
“It’s a sociable job, and it is the best feeling knowing that drinks that you create are much appreciated by their purchasers every day,” added Iain. “I love selling a high-quality and distinctive coffee, which allows me to make a good living, meet loads of interesting people, and most of all I love being my own boss and in control of days and weeks and earnings.”