Serena and Steve Liu's Cafe2U mobile espresso van has been serving customers in Eugene, Ore. since February, delivering gourmet espresso drinks to office parks, construction sites, banks and other business locations where workers can't easily get to a favorite coffee shop and is now adding a second van.
The company is a fast-growing franchise system in its native Australia and the United Kingdom that's just beginning an aggressive American expansion. Cafe2U USA eventually wants 1,000 of its vans operating in the U.S.
"The trick is finding the little niche – smaller businesses that don't have an espresso machine, that are too far away from a coffee shop and with workers who are tired of the horrible drip coffee," Serena Liu said in a prepared statement. "We have several clients like that, and they are practically beating down the door to get to us when we arrive."
Cafe2U espresso vans have real espresso machines and baristas. The vans build customer bases by following weekday routes and arriving at the same stops at the same time each day. "Everybody loves really good coffee, but not everybody has a coffee shop near their home or their office," said Scott Bundy, president and CEO for Cafe2U USA.
Cafe2U was founded in Sydney, Australia in 2000 and began franchising five years later, quickly growing from 12 vans in the Sydney area to more than 200 vans operating throughout Australia, the United Kingdom and the U.S. The company's coffee won a medal at the 2010 CSR Golden Bean Roasting Competition, where it competed against more than 1,200 blends. Cafe2U USA is headquartered in Bend, Ore.
Editor’s Insight: The mobile espresso van is a variation of the gourmet food truck which is sweeping the retail foodservice industry in the U.S. The Pacific Northwest is a unique coffee market, one that is especially receptive to espresso.
VendingMarketWatch reported two days ago that hair stylists and florists are adapting the gourmet food truck business model in the U.S. and commented that convenience has become the leading value driver in convenience retailing.
The espresso van makes more sense in the Pacific Northwest than elsewhere since coffee/espresso kiosks and coffee/espresso drive-thrus are more prevalent there than anywhere else. 06-29-12 By Elliot Maras