Sleek and stylish Mercedes-Benz Vito is the perfect ‘pick-me-up’ for Really Awesome Coffee

Sleek and stylish Mercedes-Benz Vito is the perfect ‘pick-me-up’ for Really Awesome Coffee

Mobile drinks business Really Awesome Coffee is helping caffeine aficionados ease themselves out of lockdown restrictions by providing socially distanced beverages – with the help of its eye-catching Mercedes-Benz Vito vans.

The Coventry-based company owns a growing fleet of vehicles, all of which were supplied by the city branch of Dealer Midlands Truck & Van. A combination of 111 CDI and 114 CDI models, these are operated by mobile baristas, who hold franchises to provide its hot drinks, fruit smoothies, sandwiches and snacks.

Thanks to a simple yet effective system of serving customers while maintaining a safe distance, its franchisees were able to ply their trade even as traditional coffee shops remained closed. Mobile baristas use a portable serving table set up at least two metres from the back of their van, and remote contactless payment technology, so they can serve coffees and snacks without ever getting too close to the waiting customer.

Among those using the system is Steve Silver, who covers the Coventry area. “Demand has soared, and I’m working flat out,” he declared. “Customers contact me via social media to arrange a visit, and in some cases even place their orders in advance. I’m attending workplaces, of course, but also delivering to private addresses.

Steve’s Vito 114 CDI is a long-bodied L2 PURE variant, with leather-trimmed steering wheel and gear selector, Active Parking Assist, and electrically adjustable door mirrors. The standard-fit heat-insulating glass, and optionally added air-conditioning system, meanwhile, make the cab a comfortable workspace in the hottest weather.

“The Vito is just great to drive, so easy and comfortable – more like a premium car than a commercial vehicle,” asserted Steve. “Customers, meanwhile, just can’t get enough of our Really Awesome Coffee.”

Established by Managing Director Kevin Haswell in 2010, the company took on its first franchisee a couple of years later. It now has 53, who between them run 58 vehicles and cover most of the UK.

Really Awesome Coffee’s Vito vans are the most visible representation of its brand, and an important foundation on which success for the parent company and its franchise holders is built.

“When we started out, we knew the choice of van would be hugely important,” explained Kevin. “Ours is a premium product – albeit one that we sell at a competitive price – so image was always going to be a major consideration. The Mercedes-Benz star is a byword for quality and reflects our own brand values perfectly.

“A very high level of reliability, and fast, reliable aftersales back-up, are vital too, as our partners can’t earn a living if their vehicles are constantly in an out of the workshop. The Vito has proved itself to be admirably hassle-free to operate, while the free, MobiloVan 24-hour roadside assistance from Mercedes-Benz provides a welcome safety net, should we ever need it.”

He continued: “The Vito is also the most comfortable and car-like van in its class. We are trying to attract franchisees to come and work with us, and providing them with a vehicle that’s a joy to drive – especially for those who are not used to commercial vehicles – certainly helps.”

Of equal importance, though, is the fact that the Vito offers the perfect template for Really Awesome Coffee’s conversion. The mid-sized Mercedes-Benz comes as standard with sliding doors on both flanks. This means there is easy access to the water tanks, cold stores for milk supplies, and batteries which power the catering equipment on one side, and the large refrigerated display case for sandwiches, snacks and the like, on the other.

The rear of the cargo area, meanwhile, houses the ‘star of the show’, the company’s professional-quality, espresso coffee machine, as well as a professional on-demand coffee grinder, hot-hold cabinet for hot food options, and more storage space.

Really Awesome Coffee came up with its own design for a system that does not require the engine to be left running to power its fridges and coffee machines – rechargeable batteries, supplemented by solar panels on the van roof, provide all the necessary power. Each vehicle also has a roof-mounted pod at the rear, which houses a solid, slide-out canopy, to provide shelter from the elements for baristas and customers alike.

The final element of the equation is the strength of the relationship that Kevin Haswell and his team have built up with Midlands Truck & Van, and particularly its Fleet Van Sales Manager Ben Redding.

“The Vito ticks all our boxes and is absolutely the right vehicle for this application,” Kevin asserted. “At Really Awesome Coffee we trade on the quality of our product, and on the service we provide to our customers. We expect the same focus from our suppliers, and I’m delighted to confirm that Ben and the Midlands Truck & Van team deliver on that score too.”

Really Awesome Coffee franchisees begin their journey with the company by undergoing four weeks of training, initially at the firm’s Coventry headquarters, where they learn the required barista skills as well as being coached in areas such as accounting, marketing and business development by the head office team. When they start work in their home areas their dedicated Franchise Development Manager spends a week providing full-time support ‘on the ground’, then follows up with regular visits every few weeks as their business continues to grow.

The business model is constantly evolving. To early innovations like a mobile app-based loyalty card, Really Awesome Coffee then added another mobile app which alerts regular customers as the van is arriving. Now in development is a system that will allow customers to pre-order their drinks online and pay remotely, so they can still get their coffee ‘fix’ if they’re on a phone call or in a meeting.