A day in the life of a Cafe2U franchise owner

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Antonio, Cafe2U Merton, South London

I am usually at stop one by 7.30am having had my sandwiches delivered to me at home, as well as checking the pour times and making Angela the first coffee of the day. My machinery is all turned on 30 minutes before arrival at stop one, so that it is all hot and ready to serve on arrival.

Our customers are not silent in the morning – their 'thinking caps' are on as soon as I appear, because I run a daily quiz?! Correct answers are rewarded with extra loyalty stamps or just the ‘kudos’ of being first!

However there are others who want to discuss the football, the weather, and regale tales of what they did the evening before.

Serving quick enough seems near on impossible before you start the franchise, and even at the end of training it can seem daunting still, but you soon get quicker and confident without losing the important Cafe2U quality. I have found customers value great coffee, and don’t mind waiting for it.“Good things come to those who wait”

Between 7.30am (for me, but basically as early as you want to start) and 11.45am it is usually mainly about the hot drinks – coffee, chocolate and tea – with some snacks, and food. However between 11.30 and 1.45pm the balance will shift more towards food, when customers see my service as a reliable, high quality lunchtime service, with some coffee too, and I generally feel content if I have sold out of all food by 1.30pm! This minimises waste and means I can clean the pie warmer, and turn it off, during a quiet spot before I get home.

After 1.30pm hot drinks start to rise again, and I always rotate my sandwiches to make sure the ones that perish that day are at the front. We never discount our sandwiches-we don’t have to because we order in small quantities. We also offer our customers a pre- ordering service. I serve my last customer by 3.30pm at the latest and I fill up with diesel on the way home, make my sandwich order, for next day delivery, and count what I need to restock all before I get home.

Once home, I need to clean the van, clean the coffee machine, re-merchandise, restock, and cash up the till. I also talk to my wife Angela, and catch up on her day, and if I am lucky she helps me a little! We tend to discuss the business day, and what extra jobs need doing like marketing, event planning or any ideas we both have to promote the business further. Then we sit down for dinner together. Fridays I tend to go to the bank, think about my customer messages for the week (quiz questions are chosen on Sunday night and written afresh every morning) which I write on my blackboard – specials, trivia questions, etc! This is a really useful way of reminding customers about my weekly specials, flavoured coffee of the week, or any other local news, or events. I try to make them fun too!

I choose to order from Brakes and Bolling weekly, (if I had more storage space it would be less often) unless I have an emergency, and sandwiches are delivered to my door every day of the week. I have found you cannot totally avoid wastage of sandwiches, but if you are clever with ordering, rotation, and run special prices on nearly out of date items, you can minimise this. I purchase my milk from Sainsbury’s daily.

Local marketing is my responsibility, and Angela and I never stop! It is vital to the health of my business – for the daily round as well as the event side of the business. I make sure I use the tools and tips that Cafe2U provide, as well as some of my own, and I always do some marketing every week. We also plan and implement lots of innovative ideas of our own as well, which require more thought and planning – for Christmas, we have lots of van decorations planned, and some special activities.

Event leads do come through from head office via referrals or the website, but you don’t know when they will come or how many, so I work 6 months in advance and try to stay close to home as much as possible – community, clubs, sports, enthusiasts, churches, schools, charity events – just through these channels I will do over 70 events in 2014. A lot of those will be rebooking’s, but many are new, as a result of the time Angela spends on marketing the business for events.

The weather can be a pain, particularly when rain and wind combine. Although the equipment is very good, and reliable, it does occasionally have problems, and obviously when it does you need to work with Cafe2U, the engineers, and other agencies to find a solution as quickly as possible.

It’s a sociable job, and I love being up early and out at work before a lot of other people are out of their beds! It is the best feeling knowing that drinks that you create are so much appreciated by their purchasers, every day that they are waiting for you to arrive! I love selling a product people want to spend their own money on, at the same time as providing excellent customer service. I am Italian and thought I knew a lot about coffee, but I have learnt so much, and believe I still have loads more to learn too! With a blazing desire and determination fuelled by a strong doze of passion for caffeine we are able to accomplish our goals.

Angela says: "It is brilliant to read our own story. We are proud owners of a successful C2U Franchise and it is hard to believe that we are on our 3rd year already!"
 

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