U.S. Coffee has been in business for more than 40 years. It’s one of the last independent office coffee service providers in the Tristate area and has seen the industry change from a focus on coffee frac pack weights to single cup. Then again, much hasn’t changed for this 100-employee OCS provider, which still focuses on identifying customer needs and providing the best service.
Second generation owners Doug Shindler, president, and Richard Trapani, vice president, have taken the company their fathers built and added the equipment and software needed to keep the operation current and competitive. They consider their greatest attribute the ability to quickly respond to evolving consumer demands and test the latest technology, including using the Internet to move into business to consumer sales.
Two heads are better than one
The history of U.S. Coffee has always involved partnership. The business was created by Shindler’s father, Lowell Shindler, and his partner’s father, Steve Trapani. Both had small, 100 account OCS operations and after meeting at a local industry event, felt they could do better together. In 1972 they merged to become Bunn Coffee Service Inc.
Lowell ran the front of the house – operations. Steve ran the back - purchasing. They both focused on the future, meeting customer requests as the industry grew bigger and they could no longer know each customer personally.
From fathers to sons
Shindler started working for the business in 1995 as a sales representative. He had gone to school to be an attorney and after a few years, realized it wasn’t a career he wanted to pursue. Instead, he felt drawn to OCS. “Being in business is just more fun and exciting,” he said. “It’s in my DNA.” Shindler learned the business and was named president in the early 2000s.
Trapani had worked summers at the company for years doing everything from stocking the warehouse to sales. When he graduated with a public relations major in 2001, jobs were scarce. He always knew he’d come back to the family business someday, so he joined U.S. Coffee in the clerical department. The next year, he launched into sales to really learn the operation. He became vice president in 2006.
Name changes to U.S. Coffee
The name was changed to U.S. Coffee in the mid-90s, for two reasons. The first was to end confusion that the operation might have a relationship with BUNN-O-Matic. The second was to choose a name that could be nationwide — since this had always been a goal of the founders.
In 2012, both Lowell and Steve passed away, but Shindler and Trapani remember their mantras, which included the belief that OCS was becoming a high volume, low margin business. Shindler considers this even truer today. “It’s tough to be a small company in this environment,” said Shindler. “Equipment is expensive. Margins are shrinking … Our company is large enough to hire good people and invest in the current technology.”
Trapani agrees the business has changed. “Our fathers used to walk around with a demo machine in a box — no expanded items,” he said about Lowell and Steve. Now, U.S. Coffee has more than 2,000 SKUs in the warehouse, plus an additional 40,000 office supply items that are not stocked. “We carry anything that doesn’t have to be refrigerated,” he added.
Requests spike for single cup
Single cup, or what Trapani calls “one cup” has been a large trend for U.S. Coffee in recent years. “It’s changed the OCS landscape,” he explained. More companies are asking about single cup because they believe it can make a better cup of coffee and will make employees happy. However, for Trapani and Shindler, the widespread availability of K-Cups® make single-cup less profitable than it could be. “Everyone carries them — retail and the Internet — and since we don’t operate on a route system it’s impossible to police customers,” said Shindler about where locations are buying K-Cups.