What is Mr Selfridge’s favourite coffee ? It’s never been mentioned on the hit ITV series (he’s rarely seen drinking anything stronger than a glass of water), but Paul Newman will tell you that Jeremy Piven,
the American actor who plays the pioneering store owner, likes nothing better than a steaming macchiato. And Miranda Hart, star of Call the Midwife, can’t wait for a refreshing latte at the end of a long day’s filming. “How do I know?” asks Paul. “I make coffee for them.”
That’s because as Rochester franchisee of mobile coffee company Cafe2U, Paul’s patch includes the historic Chatham dockyard, now a popular TV and movie location, with its cobbled streets and untouched Victorian and Georgian houses and buildings. Episodes of countless hit shows, including Mr Selfridge, Call the Midwife, Downton Abbey, Foyle’s War, Sherlock Holmes and Antiques Roadshow, have been filmed there. “The great thing about our mobile service is that we’re so flexible,” says Paul, who took over the Rochester area in 2011.
He’s no stranger to franchising – he worked for McDonald’s for 30 years, before deciding to become his own boss – and is currently Cafe2U’s franchisee of the year. “I might get a call saying there’s night filming at the dockyard and they need refreshments – and off I go,” Paul explains. “It’s exciting meeting some of the stars of the shows, but there’s never a dull moment in this business. You’re always going to new places and meeting new people.
It’s a great franchise and I’ve never regretted going on my own.” Since starting life in Australia in 2000, Cafe2U is now the world’s largest mobile coffee network with more than 250 franchises – over 60 in the UK – delivering freshly ground coffee and other quality drinks and snacks to businesses and workplaces. A traditional tea drinking nation, things are changing fast – 70 million cups of coffee are now sold in the UK every day, according to the latest surveys. “We’ve found customers appreciate a good cup of coffee and stick to what they like,” Paul says. And the latest studies bear him out.
The current favourite from Cafe2U vans is latte (32 per cent), beating cappuccino by 14 per cent. Customers are loyal to their mobile coffee supplier, with 52 per cent visiting the vans three-five times a week and 82 per cent saying Cafe2U coffee is their favourite. “That’s good to know,” Paul says, whose red custom-built Mercedes van with its state-of-the art equipment and distinctive ‘Godfather’ air horn call sign serves at least 120 customers a day in workplaces ranging from offices and shops to shipyards, factories and industrial units. At weekends Paul is to be seen – often with wife Melanie, mother Sandra and son Harry – at leisure events in the country or at the seaside. “It’s a real family business,” he says. “I loved the van from the moment I saw it. It’s fitted out with everything you could need, including barista equipment, warming oven and fridge.” A Cafe2U franchise costs around £25,000, which includes an exclusive territory, launch and marketing activity, plus a four-week training and support programme to ensure a new business gets off to a flying start.
As the company says: “Cafe2U offers opportunities for entrepreneurs to own a mobile coffee business without the hassle of landlords, rent or staff. The Cafe2U business model is based on weekly success, with revenue increased through event and function work, so that you can balance your lifestyle and business goals. “We are now the largest provider of mobile coffee at events up and down the country. With a 70 per cent gross margin, it’s a low overhead, high margin business that has flexibility in how it can be run.
Taking a great product to the customer, rather than waiting for them to visit you, puts you in control of the business from the start. “Cafe2U is a simple idea based on providing a much needed service where traditional vendors struggle. You get out of it what you put in – you can work as much or as little as you like. You can either make a living for a family or, if you are ambitious, expand and run a whole fleet – it’s up to you.”
UK managing director Tom Acland was a Cafe2U customer in his office in Sydney, Australia when he recognised the potential of the business, bought the UK master franchise and launched the first UK venture in 2006. As UK coffee consumption soars – some Cafe2U vans report sales increases of nearly 70 per cent – to around £800 million a year, the future could hardly be brighter for franchisees like Paul. “More and more businesses are locating to out-of-town areas and most are cutting back on in-house catering – many don’t even have coffee machines, which is great for us,” he says. “I started working for McDonald’s when I was 17 and progressed to management level.
Once I had the experience of running my own branch, I chose to continue down the franchising route, as opposed to starting my own business from scratch, because I knew it had much more solid foundations. “I chose a Cafe2U franchise because I liked the way they came across. The franchise was in my price range as an affordable option and, funded by my personal savings, it became a reality in November 2011. “In the build-up to my launch I had five days training at Cafe2U’s head office in Leeds, then my franchise development manager worked with me shoulder-to-shoulder for 10 days during the opening weeks. “For anyone planning to buy their own franchise, my advice would be to ensure you are financially sound before you start.
This will give you the best chance of making a serious go of it. For the future, I am going to stick with my basic plan and see how things progress. I will think about buying another Cafe2U if progress continues as it is now. It’s certainly more than fulfilled all my expectations.”
Other Cafe2U franchisees have similar success stories to tell. For Antonio Petrosino, taking over the Merton, London franchise has been almost a home from home. He’d spent 28 years in the catering industry and decided it was time he became his own boss. “Now I am and every day is different,” he says. “I think I have found my perfect job.” Kevin Thomas was client director of a £4 billion technology company when he saw a Cafe2U van driving around his home city of Cardiff and was intrigued.
Now after 30 years’ experience in sales, he’s his own boss, has a Cafe2U franchise and is enjoying every minute of it. Laura Macrae, an award winning Aberdeen West franchisee, first heard about Cafe2U after husband Stuart raved about a wonderful cup of coffee he had bought from a van outside his office. “I couldn’t believe you could get a decent coffee from a van, but he was absolutely right,” she remembers. “I suppose it was a life changing moment.” Back in Rochester, Paul Newman knows what she means. “I love what I do,” he says. “Looking to the future, I want to continue to build a loyal customer base and help everyone to enjoy great coffee. If Mr Selfridge likes it, I must be doing something right