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How one mobile coffee van expanded into an international fleet of over 200

For a new business start-up, the cost and complexity of staff, landlords and rent is all but part of the package. Then comes the question of location: who are your customers, will they come to you and how many competitors are already in the area? But what if your business was mobile – what if you could eliminate the overheads and follow the demand?

Starting with one van on Sydney’s Northern Beaches 15 years ago, the now international mobile coffee franchisor, Café2U, did exactly that. Now, having grown to a fleet of 257 vehicles in Australia and overseas, its cost effectiveness and mobility has proven to be a winning formula.

Immune from the peaks and troughs in trade suffered by fixed premises cafes, Café2U was a simple idea by an entrepreneur seeking to take espresso coffee to where it needed to be. Café2U General Manager, John Stanton, said “it was simply about approaching business and event opportunities.”

_DSC8563“Our mission is to produce the highest quality espresso based coffee in non-traditional locations – blue and white collar workplaces, construction sites, sporting events, concerts, school events – the list is endless.”

From humble beginnings in 2000,‘testing the water’ with a single vehicle and pioneering new concept, it wasn’t until 2004 when the business really took off according to John.

“Sales and marketing was mostly word of mouth and cold calling. Customers loved the offering and the concept became a reality… The big difference came when Café2U was sold in 2004 and transformed into a true franchise system.”

Speaking of the decision to transform the business into a franchise model, John said there are benefits on both sides fence. “Small businesses gain access to big business advantages…Purchasing power and professional marketing are just two of the many benefits.” The simplicity of the model being very attractive to first time business owners.

An attractive business model may be crucial to the growth of any franchise, but that’s far from the end of the game. Not when you’re entrusting a brand in the hands of others. Ensuring that the integrity of the brand is maintained requires strong leadership throughout the network, careful planning and support. There are now 12 employees assisting the 169 franchisees in Australia.

“What we cannot teach so easily is attitude, desire and a passion for customer service. We recruit very much on attitudinal traits,” John said.

“We have many wonderful ambassadors representing Café2U. They are driven, happy and successful. The enthusiasm of these franchise partners is infectious and is a great asset in assisting us to grow the business.”

Despite already being a clear market leader, John asserts that there’s no room for complacency or satisfaction with what has already been achieved. “There is significant room for growth both locally and internationally,” he said. Having already mastered the art of mobile coffee, the team are now focusing on expanding their food offering.

It may not be the ‘go to’ business model for everyone, but it seems to be working exceptionally well for Café2U. For anyone who may be considering a franchise model for their business, John’s advice is straightforward enough: Prove the model and don’t grow too quickly.

“A small successful team is a far greater platform for success than a larger team with a high proportion of under achievers,” he said.

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Daniel Jacobs

Daniel Jacobs

Daniel Jacobs was editor of Dynamic Business.

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