With financial support from family, Alan Fulton was able to take back control of his work life and set up his Cafe2U franchise in August 2014
Alan Fulton was part of the hospitality industry for 22 years, working in pubs, hotels and clubs, an industry which he loved but didn’t appreciate the unsociable hours.
When he decided to start looking for a business, Alan was no stranger to franchising as his father had bought a ChipsAway franchise previously. However he was looking for a beverage-based franchise so he could utilise his previous experience but without the unsociable hours, therefore, Cafe2U seemed the perfect option for him.
“I actually looked at the franchise four years before I bought it,” explains Alan. “At that time my wife Claire didn’t want me to go ahead with it, however, following a few more years of life experience and understanding of the business and further research Claire was happy for me to pursue it.
“From getting back in touch it only took me three months to complete the process.”
Alan was so pleased he made the decision and praises the support of the Cafe2U franchise system. “Martyn was so passionate about the business and helped me through every step, fully explaining everything and answering all my questions, settling any nerves I had,” he says.
Alan runs his franchise in the south of Aberdeen, serving Cafe2U coffee, hot chocolate and complimentary snacks to businesses in the area.
His mobile coffee shop has proved a hit with local businesses and his coffee is in high demand. Alan explains that one of his customers told him: “Stop worrying about being late, we love your coffee and we plan our breaks around you.”
Alan is enjoying seeing the business grow but his main motivation for buying the franchise was for the lifestyle change and is now enjoying spending much more quality time with his wife and two sons.
Triumphing despite COVID lockdowns
At the start of the COVID-19 outbreak and lockdowns, Alan’s business experienced a harrowing dip in trade. He says: “When we initially went into the first lockdown, there was a tremendous dip in my trade overnight. I had over 40 companies on my daily route on a usual Friday and come the Monday night – following news of lockdown – I was suddenly only left with 12.”
Alan refused to let this dampen his spirits. And with government guidelines allowing him to continue trading, he has done everything in his power to avoid closing by making “sweeping changes” to his services.
“I’ve been serving the majority of my clients for six years, so I thought about the process of diversifying my service style,” he explains.
“As my business delivers a daily feel-good factor, I offered my existing customers the opportunity to have their daily cup of coffee delivered directly to the front door of their homes.
“After a barrage of emails and text messages sent, the next day my phone was constantly ringing with requests to come to this street and that street, which was pleasing. And after a few days of this, I completely had my daily round back in full working order albeit in new surroundings.
“With the arrival of my van into residential streets, there was then lots of interest from neighbours of customers, which was even more pleasing as I saw these as extra opportunities to deliver my products to new customers.”
Alan received a staggering amount of support from communities in Cove, Portlethen, Stonehaven and Chapelton for continuing his services. He says: “People kept telling me how great it was seeing a local business thrive in these times, and the continued message of ‘we will buy more local from now on’ kept being reiterated to me on an hourly basis.
“By mid-May 2020, my bookings were two weeks in advance and that was working 10 hours a day, seven days a week – to keep everyone caffeinated.
“Being a catering-based business, my supply chain was slightly affected, so I decided to team up with another small business – Teacake in Chapelton – and purchase some products from them. This allowed their team to work longer hours and increase income, whilst being advertised to a new audience.
“Teacake has also since diversified its service and has now been working almost full-time since late April.
“The support I have received from local communities that I would generally not serve has been overwhelming and very humbling.
“My business went into this pandemic in an OK situation but left it in a very healthy state, thanks to the support of local people working from home from all walks of life and all types of business.”