Going the extra mile: Recognizing the 2022 Route Driver of the Year winner and honorees

April 20, 2023
Mondelēz and Automatic Merchandiser are pleased to recognize the 2022 Route Driver of the Year winner and runners-up.

Don Rasabout goes the extra mile for Evergreen Refreshments

In addition to the 500 weekly route miles clocked on Seattle’s notoriously congested freeways, Automatic Merchandiser’s 2022 Route Driver of the Year, Don Rasabout, goes plenty of extra miles for his customers, his company, Evergreen Refreshments, and fellow route drivers.

The key to success for Evergreen, or any other vending and foodservice organization, is recruiting and retaining capable route drivers. Rasabout joined the locally owned operation just six years ago, cutting his teeth as a relief driver for vending, micro market and coffee routes. Demonstrating a knack for sales and service, he was assigned his own route after 13 months as a reliever.

Based out of Evergreen’s Tukwila, Washington, branch, Rasabout quickly earned the trust and admiration of his coworkers. Evergreen is a full-line vending and breakroom refreshments provider founded more than 40 years ago by industry pioneer Jim Brinton. Brinton would later launch Avanti Markets, a separate entity, that would become a leading micro market technology company.

To prove the self-service market concept, long before Rasabout joined the operation, Evergreen deployed its first Avanti Market at a local Seattle news station. That micro market was an instant success, and the starting point for the independent vending operation’s expansion that now exceeds 800 self-checkout markets serving the Seattle and Portland regions, as well as the Olympic Peninsula. The company’s service standards are high, and Rasabout, a Seattle native, spends his days striving to exceed those values in the workplaces he serves.

“Don is an amazing driver who brings positive energy to the office, his fellow drivers and our customers,” said Kimberly Graves, Evergreen’s purchasing manager. “Don has built a rapport with his accounts where customers see him as a friend. During a recent ride-along with Don, I observed that almost every account praised him as the ‘coolest guy.’ Customers greet him by name. He’s able to chat with them but doesn’t miss a beat filling and maintaining his markets.”

Among his customers he may be known as the “coolest guy,” but his fellow Evergreen drivers consider him a warrior and have dubbed his itinerary the “worst route.” Graves explained, “Don travels farthest through the worst traffic congestion to take care of our most demanding markets.” This winter was unusually cold and snowy for the typically mild Seattle region. Rasabout encountered snow and ice almost daily. 

Rasabout’s days begin before 4 a.m. with a drive on Interstate 405 to Evergreen’s Tukwila office, where he prepares his RAM ProMaster 3500 cargo van for deliveries. He feeds hungry customers in a variety of industries, including aerospace, engineering, health care and technology.

Rasabout looks for new ways to please customers, thus improving sales. “He goes out of his way to make sure the markets look great, and he will go back if the service visit doesn’t meet his standards,” Graves said. “The job is not done until every stop meets his expectations. At the end of the day, he’s the guy who jumps in to help unload a freight truck or assist a fellow driver who might be behind on their route.”

In only six years, Automatic Merchandiser’s Route Driver of the Year winner has worked his way up from relief driver, servicing all types of vending machines, to becoming one of Evergreen’s best micro market experts. He can maintain and troubleshoot Avanti kiosks and Pico smart coolers, among other unattended retail systems. 

“Don is not the best because his sales are high, but rather the best because he has relationships with his accounts, he cares about them and he makes sure all of their needs are met,” Graves said. “He works fast and with purpose but still takes the time to do the job right.”

For his part, Rasabout advises other drivers to be alert, listen and engage with customers. “I always carry extra cleaning supplies, keep high-contact points like kiosk screens clean, and I use a professional-looking toolbox when repairs are needed,” he said. 

 When it came to nominating an Evergreen Refreshments driver for Automatic Merchandiser’s award, Graves said that all the company’s drivers deserve to be recognized. But Don Rasabout stood out most because he most exemplifies Evergreen’s values of personalized and quality service.

2022 Route Driver of the Year Runners-Up

Matt Rhoda, Bernick’s

Matt Rhoda has been with Bernick’s for about 7.5 years. He started in October 2017 at the Waite Park Minnesota location and eventually transferred up to the Brainerd, Minnesota, area shortly after. 

“Bernick’s has been a great company to work for, and I’m very excited to see how I can continue to learn, grow, and teach others about what Bernick’s offers,” Rhoda said. 

Rhoda met his wife, Kaitlyn, in Brainerd, and they wanted to place roots there. It also happens to be Rhoda’s hometown, so he already knew the area well. For the Brainerd area route, Rhoda usually puts in a total of 200-300 miles per week. 

“Matt focuses on every customer... from the smallest to the largest,” said his nominator. “He watches to see what they are purchasing and what they are not purchasing. If there is a product that spoils out, Matt will look for a replacement to try for that customer. If there is an account where they like energy drinks, Matt will look at putting in more or greater variety of energy drinks to satisfy the needs of the customer at that account.

“I am always getting positive comments from customers on what a great job Matt does. It is a pleasure to nominate Matt for Route Driver of the Year, and even if he doesn’t win the award for route driver of the year, he is still the route driver of the year in my books,” added his nominator.

Rhoda currently serves on the local Brainerd Jaycees board of directors and the State Junior Chamber International board of directors. 

“Bernick’s has been extremely supportive of my work in our community,” Rhoda added.

Matthew Schram, Crave Fresh Markets (Canteen)

Matthew Schram goes above and beyond in the workplace. Whether it is upselling his accounts on Crave Fresh Markets’ coffee service or expanding a pantry market, Schram is always looking for ways to help the customer and help the business, said his nominator. He creates the ultimate breakroom experience for his customers by ensuring they have adequate pars, great and rotating product selection and that they feel welcomed when shopping from his markets. Schram runs one of Crave Fresh Markets’ largest micro market routes and is always coming back to the team with ways to improve. 

“Matt is passionate about the industry and has shown outstanding effort in learning what it takes to become the preferred vendor in our territory,” said his nominator. “He has built relationships and gives his customers the experience they deserve. Matt is well-deserving of this award as he continues to go above and beyond. Matt is the driver all companies need when they experience hard times or good times. His passion to excel in the industry is hard to come by.”

About the Author

Nick Montano

Contributing editor Nick Montano is passionate about covering news in the vending, office coffee service and micro market industry. He brings more than two decades’ experience to AM and VMW as a business journalist. His industry roots go way back; his first jobs were managing the stockroom of a full-line vending company and filling in for vacationing route drivers during his high school summer breaks. 


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