Canteen: ‘Always Fresh. Always On.’ For Vending Bodies, ‘Always Mickey’
Self-service micromarkets are becoming a mainstay in the vending space as consumers seek more food and beverage choices within the confines of their office buildings and workplaces, while at the same time operators strive to increase sales by offering a wide array of nontraditional vending items.
Micromarkets typically offer a convenience store-type assortment of fresh and frozen foods, snacks and beverages – all stored in the appropriate vending equipment – that can be purchased at a self-checkout kiosk. The more advanced micromarkets today stock has many as 400 items, compared to 50 or so facings in a conventional vending bank.
The industry leader in the micromarket movement in the U.S. is Canteen, the only national vending operating company that offers vending, office coffee service and dining services through a company and franchise network of over 200 locations in 48 states. Canteen’s “Avenue C” micromarkets carry an expanded product selection, including fresh fruits and vegetables, salads, sandwiches, frozen items and other meal options, in addition to all the usual vended snacks. The company offers up to 400 products stocked in each market, and hundreds more to choose from. The Avenue C model can best be described as “the ultimate marriage between convenience and variety in vending.”
The official tag line for Canteen captures it’s approach to the self-serve vending micromarket: “Always Fresh. Always On.” In terms of delivering its expansive and diverse product line in quality custom vehicles, for Charlotte, NC-based Canteen, it’s “always Mickey.”
Mickey Truck Bodies, High Point, NC, has been the exclusive supplier of vending bodies to Canteen for most of the past 2 decades, and during that time the two companies have worked side by side to make sure the delivery systems keep up with the innovations in vended products.
“I’ve been here for 12 years in a position that expects me to know everything about anything with wheels on it,” says David Fowler, National Fleet Manager for Compass Group USA, Canteen Vending’s parent company. “And I depend on Mickey for more than just a quality truck body. My representative, Jim Hiatt [Mickey VP, Van Division], keeps me educated and informed with ideas for products that make our bodies lightweight, energy efficient, safe and secure.”
Compass’s multi-faceted business platform is growing across the board – vending, office coffee & refreshment, and micromarket services. So is its fleet. And just as its food, snack and beverage product lines are tailored to each location, neither are its vending bodies a one-size-fits-all proposition. “We are a very diversified business, and each of our parts is growing, changing and operating with various body up-fits,” explains David. “Mickey listens to our delivery objectives, makes suggestions and ultimately produces our vehicles. In many cases, they start by building a prototype.”
For the Avenue C concept, David and Jim conducted several interviews with Canteen management to understand exactly what was needed in a micromarket establishment, and determined that the Avenue C business required a truck that could deliver multiple products at multiple temperatures. “The Avenue C body incorporated something that we never used in any of our vehicles before – a mechanical freezer,” David points out. “Jim worked with several freezer suppliers to bring in a variety of units for us to review. We even incorporated features from our existing trucks.”
“That’s how we develop all of our products – we study the market, talk to our customers, and look at what we have done in the past that can still work as we move forward,” notes Jim.
“Jim is always thinking ahead to find new ways to improve the weight, energy efficiency, safety and security of our delivery equipment. In fact, we just changed over to LED lighting to be a little more energy efficient,” David explains. “I also know they’re working on a new locking system to make our products even more secure on the truck. Those are the things that have kept our relationship long term. When it comes to our truck bodies, we’re a one-stop shopper.”