Jim Evans isn’t fazed by the recession. Or rising coffee prices. Or intensifying competition. In his mind, he’s faced bigger challenges in the OCS business over the past few decades.
And any company that has survived amidst all these challenges has emerged as a stronger company.
Nowhere has it been as evident as in the metropolitan New York City area, the nation’s largest and most competitive OCS market.
Evans Quality Coffee Service, based in Moonachie, N.J., has mastered the product knowledge, market knowledge, team strength and forward-looking vision needed to prosper in today’s OCS industry.
Evans, a second generation owner, noted that a business owner must recognize changing customer needs, new technologies, and have the ability to focus on the areas the company can best serve. “Single-cup in general has changed our industry,” said Evans. “It has absolutely revolutionized how people drink coffee both at home and in the office. It also comes with its own frustrations.”
The current recession is only one of several challenges that OCS companies have faced since single cup became the mechanism of choice in the Northeast several years ago. Profit margins on K-Cups, the most popular single-cup product, were declining prior to the recession, forcing OCS operators to focus closely on their profit margins.
The coffee price increases in the past year have compounded the challenges even further.
But despite all of the challenges, the OCS customer still wants a good cup of coffee and is willing to pay for it.
Evans Quality Coffee Service has increased sales in the last year in double digits. Evans claims price increases account for less than half of this growth. The company has expanded its coffee selections to offer customers more variety. It has also discovered some popular new product segments, such as iced beverages. And it has also established a strong Internet sales program.
Evans is quick to credit the support he gets from product and equipment suppliers. He recognized early on the important role suppliers play in a service company’s success.
More concerning to Evans than price increases and stiff competition is the fact that the economy remains in a fragile state. Refreshment service operators cannot expect volume growth until customer populations increase, and employers aren’t going to invest in growth until the economic outlook becomes more stable.
But Evans is optimistic because OCS has become a specialty, and over the years, his company has mastered it.
Roots in mobile catering
Evans has been in the refreshment services industry for as long as he can remember. In 1960, his father, Edward Evans, then 19 years old, bought a mobile catering truck and delivered food made in his parents’ kitchen to industrial work sites.
Mobile catering was a much bigger business then than it is today. Edward Evans expanded to three trucks and began selling trucks and supplies to other mobile caterers.
In the 1970s, the company expanded into vending, manual feeding and OCS.
In 1980, Jim Evans was a teenager when his father built a 14,000-square-foot building to open a commissary. The commissary supported the vending, manual feeding and mobile catering business. OCS was the smallest part of the business at the time.
Shortly thereafter, Jim Evans attended Seaton Hall University in South Orange, N.J. and studied business management and industrial relations.
Edward Evans saw that while OCS and vending were both growing, the two businesses did not have a lot of synergies. He realized the company needed to dedicate resources to both businesses.
Between the two businesses, Edward Evans realized that OCS was a more profitable business. Hence, he acquired a 2-route OCS company in Berlin, N.J. with the intention of focusing on OCS more than vending. The Berlin branch eventually moved to Pennsauken.
In the mid 1980s, Evans acquired a small OCS company in southern New Jersey and also helped a relative start an OCS business in Boston, Mass., Evans Quality Coffee Service of New England.