What does Quality Vending & Coffee have in common with Google, Apple, Amazon and Walt Disney?
Well, for starters, the Kansas City-based company’s humble beginnings took root in the family garage. Fast forward 32 years and, like those corporate juggernauts, this family-owned and -operated company found success through hard work, innovation and an unwavering commitment to its customers.
“We laugh when we think back at our beginnings,” said company president Carl Miceli. “We had a couple of shelves of product wedged next to Mom’s washer and dryer in a two-car garage. But it has been a family affair ever since. Every member of our family – my parents, my brother-in-law, my siblings, our kids, and my sons-in-law – has had a hand in supporting our business.”
It started in the garage
In 1991, Don Miceli and his late wife JoBeth took what was an enormous leap of faith in launching their vending company from the family’s modest suburban home. Drawing on his three decades of vending experience at the time, Don set his heart and mind to building a company based on a principle that, to this day, has stood the test of time: quality.
To prosper, Don knew that he had to differentiate his company from other vendors who were selling the same products, from the same vending machines. His strategy centered on the quality of service he could provide. “At the end of the day, we were all selling Snickers bars and Cokes, but to do that from a quality perspective – that was the way to build a business rooted in relationships and excellence,” Don said.
To deliver on that, Don, along with his son Carl, went about investing their time, resources and whatever it took to be an industry service leader. “If a customer called with a request or a service need, we were on it: late nights, weekends, holidays,” Don said. “We simply put their needs before our own and, honestly, we were happy to do it. We were more than a vending company – we were Quality Vending Company.”
For Carl, working alongside his dad was an extension of what he already knew and loved. As a teen, he worked summer jobs in vending, going to work with his dad and learning the ropes as a route driver, technician and warehouse worker. “It never was a question of ‘if’, but more ‘when,’ I would make vending my career,” Carl said.
Not even a year into their new venture and with a growing list of accounts, Don reached out to his son-in-law, Dean Prather, about joining their team. With a degree in industrial management, Dean was a bit apprehensive about a career switch. “When my father-in-law called to say he had a spot for me at the company, I was excited about the potential, but nervous about an industry I knew little about, other than what I knew from his and Carl’s experience over the years,” Dean said. “But I did it! Hands down, it is one of the best life decisions I’ve ever made.”
Quality Vending’s homegrown success came by way of Don’s careful and conservative approach to business. “My dad had a very intentional, no-nonsense approach to expansion and purchase of new equipment,” Carl said. “We simply invested wisely. We never took a loan to buy a single vending machine. We paid for equipment and improvements as we went. We were organic in every sense of the word – building our business one account at a time.”
Given the day, much of that organic growth also came by way of word-of-mouth referrals – happy customers who recommended Quality Vending to other businesses. In time, the vending operation had taken over more than the garage. “We were constantly replenishing our inventory,” Carl said. “We were stacking product all over the place, just to keep up.”
Five years in, the company moved to its first 5,000-square-foot warehouse. “We thought we had died and gone to heaven!” Dean laughed. “We had all the space in the world for managing our inventory. We could drive our trucks inside to load them. We had a spot for everything. It was a beautiful facility that we were so very proud to be in.”
Sure and steady
Like any business with three decades under its belt, Quality Vending has navigated the challenges of an ever-changing world. Trends come and go. Technologies evolve. Pandemics happen.
“There’s a balance in determining how and when our company should also change to meet the needs of our customers, our industry, and our world,” Dean said.
Carl recalls when selling bottled water in vending machines seemed like a radical idea. “I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, people are really going to buy bottled water?’” Carl questioned.
Rather than impulsively jumping on the hottest trends, the company’s approach has been to listen carefully to what its customers are asking for. When calls for office coffee service (OCS) started brewing, it added this service line. True to its sure-and-steady approach, what began with a simple one-pot setup, is now a robust line of coffee services, including single cup, espresso, and fresh ground and gourmet offerings.
Similarly, the company introduced cold food vending at the requests of its customers, which led to one of the largest segments of its business today. “This service line proved to be an invaluable asset during the COVID-19 pandemic as many essential businesses relied on our offerings to keep their employees fed and hydrated,” Dean said.
“If there is any facet of our industry in which we dragged our feet, it was the micro market segment,” Dean said. “I’m not embarrassed to tell people that we were late adopters of the concept,” adding that he and Carl were at a NAMA convention in Chicago many years ago when this new concept was introduced.
“We walked out of that show, looked at each other, and said, ‘these people have lost their minds. It's just an honor box system!’ We made a conscious decision to not invest in that segment – that we would let everyone have fun with it until it died,” Dean said.
As it turned out, demand for the innovative convenience concept continued to blossom. “We had been sitting on the outskirts, paying attention to micro markets,” Carl added. “We realized that the day was going to come when we would need to include them in our offerings. We just didn't realize it was going to come as quickly as it did.”
The turning point came when one of Quality Vending’s largest customers wanted to transition from traditional vending to micro markets. “We were very transparent that we were not a player in that space yet,” Dean noted. “Ultimately, the customer decided that they didn’t want to be our guinea pig, and we ended up parting ways.”
Sam Hagan, Carl’s son-in-law who serves as business development manager at the company, says it was not a lesson lost on them. With the loss of a major client to one of America’s largest vending conglomerates, Quality Vending accepted that it was time to add micro markets to its service lines.
“Our industry is constantly evolving,” Sam said. “So, we, as a company also need to evolve, whether we like it or not. It's a constant learning curve.”
Growth mindset and a third generation
Today, learning is a big part of Quality Vending and Coffee’s gameplan.
In addition to Sam who leads business development and marketing, Carl’s son Dominic Miceli, and his son-in-law Jeremy “J.D.” Warman, are part of the talented team – the third generation – to help lead and grow the company. Joining in 2010, J.D. supervises the route sales and service team for the company’s 12 vending and coffee routes.
Dominic, who joined in 2014, manages inventory and warehouse-related operations. Sam, who started in 2017, leads the company’s business development and marketing. Don, who retired in 2010, remains a daily visitor – and an exemplary role mode – to the team who is carrying on his legacy.
In 2020, the company moved to a 25,000-square-foot facility. The new site includes a full-on pre-kitting operation with LightSpeed technology. Its vending sales and OCS continue to expand as well as its company-branded Qmart Break Place micro markets.
And, for the earlier mentioned customer who parted ways with Quality Vending? Having proven themselves more than capable of providing high-quality micro markets, Quality Vending successfully earned that customer back, an accomplishment that serves as a huge source of company pride. “It’s the largest project that I’ve been a part of to-date,” Sam said. “We have grown so much since then, and it truly is a testament to who we are as a company and the level of service we strive to provide.”
Same stuff, but better
Dominic insists that there is nothing extraordinary about Quality Vending’s product offerings. “We recognize that we aren't unique in the products that we offer, nor is our equipment much different than our competitors,” Dominic said.
“We know, without a doubt, that proactive and uncompromising customer service adds value,” Sam added. “That is 100% why we earned back that customer’s vote of confidence.” And, ensuring the customer has a positive experience is at the heart of that confidence.
Beyond exemplary service, technology is also a huge part of the experience. “We are not afraid of new technologies,” Dean said. “We embrace it. We were early adopters of credit card readers on machines, as well as universal management software. Every chance we get, we put technology to work.” Quality Vending offers customers a mobile app to seamlessly place and track service calls. In addition, in collaboration with IT solutions provider Tech 2 Success, the company built a comprehensive e-commerce site for order placement and tracking.
“It was a huge upgrade for us, because it provided courtesy emails to the customer that say, ‘Hey, your order is being delivered in 48 hours.’ It completely mitigated our hotshot deliveries,” J.D. said. “We're providing that same service, but now it is more streamlined and relevant to our customers’ needs.”
Keeping it local
Aside from America’s top brands, Quality Vending and Coffee takes great pride in bringing hometown favorites to breakrooms across the metropolitan area. The lineup includes coffee from The Roasterie, Guy’s Potato Chips, and a variety of fresh food and pastries from local purveyors. “We are really trying to put an emphasis on partnering with local companies heading into the future,” Sam said.
Quality Vending leaned heavily on its regional partnerships through COVID when supply chains were unpredictable. In those uncertain times, these relationships proved to be invaluable, allowing the company to continue meeting the needs of its customers while experiencing continuing growth and profitability.
“We very much appreciate the opportunity to be good community partners,” Dominic said. “I’ve been working alongside our family for a lot of years now, and I cannot think of a time that giving back has not been a part of our culture.” Quality Vending enjoys supporting a variety of customer initiatives and local nonprofits. Recently, it partnered with the national Giving Machines campaign sponsored by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints that allows patrons to donate to humanitarian causes in the U.S. and around the globe.
Onward and upward
Carl and Dean affirm that the current and future success of Quality Vending is predicated on the company’s culture, values and relevancy in the marketplace.
“Most multi-generational businesses fail,” Carl said. “The ones that succeed take great care in instilling and maintaining a culture of excellence. My father, Don, taught us to keep our work ethic strong, and our commitment to our customers even stronger. Our foundational principle – quality above all – is a testament to who and what we are: Kansas City’s own Quality Vending.