The strength of 5-gallon coolers could have something to do with cost savings, Ridenour noted. In an office that has 10 or fewer people, she often recommends the 5-gallon cooler because it costs less per month than filtration. However, about half of these small offices choose point-of-use water instead, whether it’s to prevent lifting 50-pound bottles, regain the storage areas previously taken up by 5-gallon water bottles, or because they want to add coffee service as well.
When Ridenour installs a point-of-use system, she installs the stand-alone unit that looks just like a 5-gallon water cooler. She said it gives the employees silent reassurance that the water is better quality, whether it’s the spring water or just filtered water.
Ridenour doesn’t offer reverse osmosis filters because she hasn’t seen a filter that can keep up with high water demands. “Reverse osmosis in an office that’s a heavy consumer would take a long time, and the tank would have to be huge,” she said. It’s just not right for her locations.
Brewer selection challenging
Ridenour loves connecting the right coffee equipment and products with a location. Going in and replacing old equipment with something new or offering a better coffee boosts morale, she noted. In a location that’s downsizing, where wages have been frozen and there are cutbacks, switching to a single-cup brewer can help customers feel better about their jobs. “It says to an employee that the employer still cares about me because they’re giving me a premium cup of coffee,” said Ridenour. While Keurig is well known to customers, she also offers Tassimo brewers to higher-end clients who want coffee shop quality drinks, such as café mochas, espresso and lattés. “It’s an excellent product for that,” said Ridenour.
For customers that are more concerned about cost, she offers almost exclusively Newco equipment. “They’ve gotten the science right on bulk coffee,” said Ridenour. “The brewers won’t brew unless the water is at the right temperature, etc.”
She also offers soft pod brewers as a less expensive single-cup option. Ridenour always thought soft pods were a good idea, but the equipment broke down often. Now the equipment is reliable, and will make a good cup of coffee consistently and easily. She uses the Newco Fresh Cup pod brewer. Soft pods are especially useful if a location prefers a brand of coffee unavailable as a K Cup. “There’s a lot of providers and no restrictions,” she said.
Technology makes a difference
Ridenour recognized the value of experts early on. In 1997, she paid $30,000 to get a software system for invoices, inventory control and to run back-end operations.
New software costs less, does more
In 1999, the software technology had evolved so much, it only cost her $10,000 to get a superior system, Advantage Route Systems. The new system eliminated data entry, addition errors, price discrepancies, and filing and delivery issues. “It’s a fabulous little program,” said Ridenour. Every driver has a computer. And each location has an account, so if it’s a branch location that can only order certain products, those are the only products the location sees as options. It provides customers a copy of each invoice by email, notifications of missed deliveries, and statements. “The cost savings the program gives us is phenomenal,” she said.
The new system helped her win back a major account she’d lost in 2010. The large plant needed water delivered to 13 different locations. Ridenour knew from running routes herself that being hot, tired and working hard meant one or more of those stops might get missed. So, she made each stop a separate invoice, rather than one for the entire location. It made it easier for a driver to know whether or not they had visited every stop. It was this attention to detail and service, using technology to make delivery easier, which brought the location back. “I actually had people shake my hand and say, ‘I’m so glad you’re back,’” said Ridenour.
Quality Website a must
Ridenour hired a professional Website designer in 2005 to create www.pinemountainsprings.com. The site allows her to communicate with existing customers about the new products she offers. She drives them to the site by asking them to place orders online where they can see all the new coffee selections in color. Ridenour also sends out emails before a scheduled delivery or when she adds a new product. These emails link back to the Website.