American Vending & Coffee Service combines calculation and passion to grow business

Sept. 14, 2023
American Vending & Coffee Service (AVCS) has employed a customer-centric approach to become a premiere provider of office coffee service, vending and water service.

Born in the bustling world of New York City, where businesses come and go like a speeding subway, one company has grown far beyond its humble beginnings. For over six decades, American Vending & Coffee Service (AVCS) has employed a customer-centric approach to become the premiere provider of office coffee service, vending and water for over half of the United States.

Drew Warner, who took the helm of American Vending & Coffee Service in 1996, carries on the legacy of the 56-year-old pioneering workplace refreshment service founded by his grandfather, Morris Rood. While much has changed over the decades, Rood’s vision to offer the most comprehensive refreshment variety, backed up by timely and trusted service, remains deeply ingrained.

Like grandfather, like father, like uncle, like son

Warner’s grandfather was a salesman for amusement operator and distributor Runyon Sales, before he launched AVCS from a gas station basement in 1967. Rood’s son-in-law, Jeff Kraus (Warner’s uncle), soon joined him in the business. The duo had grown the business into a 15-route operation when Warner, a college student at the time, began working part-time at the family operation in 1987.

“I would wake up at 4:30 in the morning every day to drive from Edison to Randolph,” Warner recalled. “I was learning everything from the bottom up.”

Warner wore many hats in the business, from running routes and working in the warehouse to processing orders and counting money. Along the way, Warner’s grandfather mentored and groomed him to master the art of operations and customer service that remain the very foundation of the company’s multi-generational success.

Warner’s vending roots run deep in his DNA, not only from his grandfather but also beginning in his childhood alongside his father, Art Warner, who was a coin-op amusement operator serving the lively New Jersey shore hot spot. The young Warner rode along the route with his father, learning by observing how to master communication and build relationships and how a route-based, service-oriented operation functions.

“My father was an icon in the business world,” Drew Warner noted. “I learned so much by just watching the way he interacted with people.”

Opportunity smells like coffee

After graduating from college in 1990, Warner joined his grandfather’s vending business full-time. Specialty coffee was beginning to boom and was ripe for a whole new wave of possibilities in the workplaces they served, so he made it his personal mission to grow the company’s OCS business. The company had provided OCS since 1973, but only on a very small scale to accommodate its vending customers.

Providing office coffee service in the discerning and demanding metropolitan New York City area set the bar high for American Vending & Coffee Service and has kept it on the cutting edge of the coffeehouse trends its customers demand. Today, AVCS offers a comprehensive portfolio of bean-to-cup, single cup, glass pot and espresso coffee machines, with coffee from over 20 reputable brands from which to choose.

American Vending & Coffee Service has since expanded its services, kept on the forefront of technology, and adapted its product offerings every step along the way to cater to its customers’ ever-changing demands. If customers have a special request outside of the company’s expansive offerings, they can rest assured Warner and his team will accommodate it. “The word ‘no’ isn’t in our vocabulary,” Warner proclaimed. “If we have the ability to provide something to our customer, we will.”

Carrying the fire

Eight years after Drew Warner joined the family business, his uncle left it, and the young protégé became president. As a third-generation business owner, Warner and AVCS are an anomaly in the business world. According to the Family Business Institute, only one-third of businesses reach a second generation and just 12% make it to a third. Warner talks highly of his family who laid the foundation of the company and equipped him with the necessary traits to succeed.

“My grandfather, my father and my uncle were all entrepreneurs,” he said. “I watched them wake up very early and come home late at night, every day. I saw that it was a grind, and not every day was going to be a good day. Their work ethic inspired me and I still carry that with me in American Vending.”

Warner emphasized that the only way to succeed as an entrepreneur, whether first, second or third generation, is to have a true passion for the craft. “You can have everything handed to you, but if you don’t have that burning desire inside you, you won’t make it,” Warner said. “That inner fire got us through 9/11, COVID, and many other challenges along the way. You need to be willing to go in head-first and embrace the challenges as they come.”

While Warner finds motivation in economic reward and business success, his passion is primarily fueled by maintaining his family’s legacy. “My grandfather poured his heart into American Vending,” he said. “It is so important for me to maintain that, not just for myself, but also for my family. I want to show my four-year-old son that money comes after a person’s character and reputation. I strive to conduct my business with the utmost dignity and respect, both internally and externally.”

A calculated approach

When Warner assumed the helm at AVCS, he was immediately the person solely responsible for a highly complex and busy operation. Despite his predisposition to hustle, he understood he needed to assume a calculated approach to running the business.

“I treat my business like it’s not even my own,” Warner remarked. “I am not only responsible for myself, but also all of my employees and their families. I am responsible for serving the customers that rely on us. So every decision we make must account for everyone who depends on American Vending.”

Before he accepts a new venture, he carefully analyzes it to see how it will fit into the landscape of his current business. He accounts for cost, logistics, route structure and man hours to ensure that both old and new customers will receive exemplary service. “It has to make sense,” Warner explained. “If we’re going to take something on, we’re going to do it the right way.”

For added security, Warner ensures that AVCS always has a large cash reserve set aside in the case of an emergency. “At a very early age, I learned from my parents that a ‘rainy day account’ isn’t enough,” he emphasized. “You need a tropical storm account. You never know what tomorrow’s going to bring, so we make sure that we are prepared for anything.”

The COVID storm

For AVCS, that “tropical storm” came in 2020 with the COVID-19 pandemic. When business screeched to a halt, Warner’s hefty emergency fund kept the business afloat. “There really wasn’t any business,” the operator recalled. “The lights were basically out.”

Although operations slowed, Warner kept his sights on the future. From backend software upgrades and optimizing logistics to expanding offerings and building an aggressive marketing campaign, he worked furiously to ensure AVCS returned with a vengeance.

“It was an absolute grind,” Warner reflected. “I was working 14 to 15 hour days. I had to become way more hands-on. Like most business owners at the time, I was really humbled by the pandemic.” His hard work paid off when restrictions eased, as AVCS made a quick bounce back, bringing back all of its employees and is now exceeding its pre-pandemic revenue.

Changing with the times

The entire landscape of the vending industry changed following the pandemic. As companies downsized and workers went remote, offices were left largely unoccupied. While the situation seemed dire to some, Warner saw an opportunity to move beyond AVCS’s traditional offerings and fill the gaps in the market. “With less staff in the offices, and many of our competitors working at a limited capacity, our customers turned to us for extra services,” he said. “We are really becoming a one-stop shop.”

While maintaining its bread-and-butter services – coffee, water and vending – AVCS looks to continue diversifying its offerings with micro markets, equipment maintenance services and pantry services.

Powered by a strong team

As AVCS continues to expand its customer base at a rapid pace, the company’s staff grows at the same rate. According to Warner, having an exceptional team is the cornerstone to the growth and success of AVCS. “I am confident that I have the best team on the planet,” the operator said. “My people are dedicated, hard-working and passionate. As we grow, I’ll make sure to maintain the great culture we have established at American Vending.”

To attract and retain top talent, Warner invests heavily in his employees, providing a variety of generous benefits, growth opportunities and a supportive and empathetic work environment.

Five decades of coffee, and many more to come

On June 1, 2023, AVCS celebrated the 50th anniversary of the company’s coffee service. With family and friends in attendance, Warner was joined by the mayor of Parsippany, New Jersey, and other public officials to honor the milestone with a ceremonial ribbon-cutting.

“It was an emotional day,” the operator remarked. “It gave us an opportunity to look back on how much we’ve accomplished and grown.”

Empowered by the rich history of AVCS, Warner plans to cement a legacy of his own. “We will continue growing at our current pace, and we will continue to grow smart,” he said. “We have a few surprises coming in the near future that will really elevate our company. I’m just as excited about the business now as when I first started. The future of American Vending is very bright.” ■

About the Author

Aaron Jed

Aaron Jed is a contributing editor for Automatic Merchandiser and


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