“As a salesperson I have lots of visual memories of being in their offices and looking out. (The attacks) affected people in different ways, but I wanted to remember it the way it was,” said Frank. He and his wife decided to leave New York, so they sold the company.
RELOCATING TO FLORIDA
Having always liked Florida, the Franks decided to settle in Tampa and founded a third OCS company, Café Liberty Coffee, a name they used in New York for their private label coffee. “We had lots of marketing material, so we stuck with that,” he said.
Frank quickly learned the clientele in his new home was different. “When we first came to Florida, we brought our pack weight profiles with us, the ones we used in New York, thinking tastes would be the same,” explained Frank. His 2.5-ounce pack coffee overwhelmed some customers.
The education was a two-way process, however. Frank taught Tampa customers that “free” creamer and sugar was reflected in the higher coffee prices they were being charged. He also taught them to expect more immediate product delivery.
The Franks decided not to carry office supplies in Florida, instead focusing on coffee and a new business for them — vending.
TEMPORARY EXPANSION INTO VENDING
One of the first large accounts they landed in Tampa asked them to handle their vending banks. Frank agreed, although he’d never done vending before. “You always say ‘yes’ and then figure out how to do it,” he said.
They ran the vending division, VendWorks, for about four years before the economy slowed down. Looking at the return on investment for vending versus OCS, they decided vending was a distraction.
Frank wanted to sell the vending business to someone who would give the same level of customer service to his locations as he did, but he didn’t want to lose OCS accounts to the vending operators either. Eventually, the right buyer came along.
“I sold the vending side in February of this year and we’ve doubled our coffee sales,” said Frank. He wonders how much more coffee he’d be selling if he’d never gone into vending.
Currently, Café Liberty partners with several vending companies which do not provide their own OCS. Frank passes along any vending leads that come in via phone. He has no plans to go back into vending.
SINGLE CUP DRIVES GROWTH
Frank always had an interest in single-cup brewers, starting with Unibrews, one of the first Filterfresh competitors. He saw the success Filterfresh was having and felt the trend would continue.
“I model successful people,” said Frank. Currently, he places a lot of Keurig machines as well as Colibri and Brio equipment.
“Each individual account has their specific needs,” said Frank. If they want the freedom to choose a wide variety of coffees, Frank suggests a Keurig machine. However, some accounts need coin mechanisms, and that’s when he places the Colibri or Brio. These machines act like hot beverage venders.
Frank is not sold on pod brewers. “There are so many delivery systems out there that are better,” he said.
One system he’s investigating is the new Starbucks Interactive Cup brewer that accepts credit cards, which Frank sees being more important in future. He believes a lot of offices will consider charging for coffee to control costs.
Already, he has a location asking about ways to prevent people from pocketing K-cups for use at home. He is suggesting the new Green Mountain branded K-cup dispensing machine. The K-cups will be on free vend, but the location hopes the machine will eliminate the pilfering.
SUPPLIERS HELP MEET ECONOMIC CHALLENGES
“A lot of our growth, besides being due to our personalities and due diligence, is because of (suppliers) helping us,” said Frank. Folgers and Keurig gave permission to use their logos on Café Liberty uniforms. Frank is also asking suppliers for samples as a way to promote their products.
“You have to have a great relationship with your (suppliers),” said Frank. Keurig has stepped up and given him point-of-sale literature and other tools, which have helped him become one of the biggest Keurig distributors in Florida.
He recently signed on with Green Mountain Coffee Roasters, and has switched customers by using free samples.