When Bruce Taher left Interstate United Corp. to launch his own company in 1981, he foresaw many of the challenges facing the automatic merchandising industry. As he states in our cover story beginning on page 70, he believed vending was in for some difficult times.
In 1981, Taher was specifically concerned about the decline in cold cup machines and the inability of hot beverage machines to match the coffee quality of the pervasive automatic drip coffeemaker.
Since then, the industry’s challenges have multiplied.
Taher opted to focus on onsite foodservice, where he believed a commitment to freshness and quality gave him a chance to succeed. The rest is history.
Last year, Food Management magazine listed Taher Food Service as the nation’s 24th largest foodservice contractor.
WHAT DOES HE TELL US?
Does the fact that a successful foodservice professional has redirected his focus on vending say anything about our industry’s future?
Taher reasoned that it made sense to expand into vending as a way to strengthen his company’s depth. Many customers prefer dealing with one provider for multiple services.
But that wasn’t all.
Taher also believed that vending equipment and products had improved to the extent that new opportunities were at hand.
VENDING: NOT AN EASY PATH
Taher had no illusions about the amount of hard work and investment needed to build a vending division that met the standards of his foodservice business. It wasn’t going to be easy. So he approached the challenge in his usual, methodical manner.
He knew he could save money sourcing fresh food from commercial commissaries rather than preparing it himself. But quality control might suffer, so he opted to prepare most food inhouse.
Nutrition and obesity were rising concerns that demanded attention. So when Taher encountered a school foodservice director whose quality standards prevented him from hiring a commercial vending contractor, he recognized some unique talents this individual could provide him. He hired this foodservice director to develop a proprietary wellness program.
Taher also knew the importance of technology, so he invested in DEX handhelds. With his technology savvy son, Shawn, on board, he began examining remote machine monitoring and video touchscreens.
This past year, Taher won two of the largest vending contracts in the Twin Cities, in each case, displacing a national operation.
These two victories have not made him cocky. Taher assesses his company’s future in vending as follows:
“For Taher’s future, we anticipate continued moderate growth, providing we find new measures to address the increasing demands for healthier products without giving up the taste, conserve energy with each unit, reduce driving, reduce labor, and equip our vending machines with the ability to communicate to our offices, to our clients’ offices, and to begin to market our products the same way that gas stations are.”
SUCCESS WON’T COME FAST OR EASY
Taher learned early on that the only successful approach is a long-term approach. For him, the only path to success is the one that meets the customers needs completely and consistently.