Bob Allen, MD of Allen Vending recently refused to accept a coffee from an N&W Korinto. His point-blank ‘no thank-you’, delivered at a restaurant owned by one of his friends, raised eyebrows and begged the question, ‘what’s wrong with the coffee?’ After all, Allen Vending is one of N&W’s longest standing customers, and to imply that the coffee isn’t all that it should be…
‘Oh, there’s was nothing wrong with the coffee’, Bob says reproachfully. ‘In fact, it was as good an espresso as you’ll find in just about any restaurant.’ So what was the problem? ‘Margin’, Bob grins. ‘He was retailing an espresso at £1.80, and knowing the numbers as I do, I knew how much money he was making with every cup he sold. It would have left a bitter taste in my mouth!’
He’s just joking, of course: good quality coffee, without the expense and inconvenience of training staff in the art of the barista, is a core constituent of the Allen Vending offer, and many of Bob’s customers who have ‘done the maths’ have followed his advice and automated their coffee offers.
‘We started as a coffee company forty-one years ago’, Bob says. ‘In those days, we were one of the original Zanussi customers and we grew the business by evolving our offer to take in snacks, can and bottle vending.’ The intervening years have witnessed continuous change in the vending industry. Bob might not have worked with quite as many N&W Managing Directors as HRH The Queen has worked with Prime Ministers, but you get the picture… He’s seen it all.
‘We’ve always had a good working relationship’ Bob says. ‘I’ve always thought of N&W as a proactive company that handles any problems well.’
Nowadays, Allen Vending is one of the UK’s most successful regional operators. Centred on Nottingham, the majority of the firm’s customers are within a forty-mile radius. In recent years Allen Vending’s business has expanded to embrace retail operators as well as ‘traditional’ vending locations… ‘We’ve placed K Range machines, particularly Korinto, in bars and restaurants in recent years. The introduction of table-top machines capable of delivering excellent espresso paved the way for us.’
However, asked if there was one machine in particular that had helped to grow his business, Bob’s response was immediate: ‘I’d have to hand it to N&W’s Snakky’, he said. ‘For us, Snakky ticked all the boxes because it opened up the benefits of vending to smaller locations than had previously been the case.’
‘It’s a very flexible machine’, Bob said. ‘It comes as a snack, can, bottle machine; or snack only; or can and bottle. Either way, it’s a lot of machine for a very compact footprint, and as so many snacks purchases are made on impulse, Snakky has created a lot of opportunities for us to build sales by selling up.’ Things are about to get even better: hot on the heels of Snakky, N&W are bringing a new machine, Melodia, to market, and we hear that Melodia will add even greater environmental efficiency to Snakky’s long list of advantages
Be that as it may, but Bob Allen sees ‘good coffee’ as the catalyst for increased sales: ‘The better the coffee, the more likely customers are to ‘treat themselves’ to another cup’, he said, ‘so we improve the odds that those customers will buy on impulse from the neighbouring snack machine.’
Increasing both the number of transactions, and their value… Sounds like the way ahead, doesn’t it?