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NAMA Coffee Service Education Summit Ponders Present And Probes Potential Of Workplace Refreshment Business

Posted On: 2/21/2008

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CHERRY HILL, NJ -- Industry members from across the United States and Canada thronged the Crowne Plaza Hotel here for the National Automatic Merchandising Association's first-ever Coffee Service Education Summit. According to Roger Stewart, NAMA's director of coffee service, about 400 industry members took part in the event.

David Gellman, Gellman Associates (Norristown, PA), who served as event chairman, welcomed the participants and emphasized the importance of joining and supporting industry associations both at the national and the local levels. He instanced the Pennsylvania Automatic Merchandising Council's recent successful defense of equitable treatment of vending operators under the state's sales tax law as illustrating the value of organized local action. Gellman also thanked the members of the Keystone Coffee Association for their valuable assistance in organizing and publicizing the first Coffee Summit.

Michael Rosamond of Mars Drinks, a member of NAMA's Coffee Service Committee, introduced the first session. This was an overview of the coffee industry, led by Automatic Merchandiser's Elliot Maras and a panel consisting of Scott Wechsler, Quality Express Coffee (Tullytown, PA); Sheryl Evans, Roast 2 Coast Coffee Service subsidiary of DS Waters (Portland, OR); Lindsey Bolger, Green Mountain Coffee Roasters (Waterbury,VT); and Con Foley, Gold Cup Coffee Service (Tampa, FL).

Maras led off by reporting that the percentage of Americans who drink a cup of coffee every day now exceeds the percentage of daily soft drink consumers, and three-quarters of coffee consumed today is enjoyed away from home. He explored the opportunities that these favorable trends present to coffee service operators, and traced the development of today's popular single-cup delivery systems. These, he emphasized, offer operators the ability to provide more choices than a typical coffee shop. 

In the ensuing question-and-answer period, operators and panelists traded views on the evolution of the workplace coffee market, new forms of competition and present coffee price volatility.

After lunch, participants had a choice between two sessions. One, led by Dr. Michael Kasavana of Michigan State University (East Lansing), surveyed the application of information technology to OCS route sales and delivery operations. The other, conducted by Jim Nelson of Everpure LLC (Hanover Park, IL) and Cliff Rosen, Kool Tek (Tampa, FL), explored the "fit" between office refreshments and pure water service.

Ed Holloran, Filterfresh Coffee Service (Westwood, MA), introduced the technology session. Dr. Kasavana, who is NAMA Endowed Professor at MSU's Eli Broad School for Hospitality Business, moderated a panel of experts on information systems for the workplace service industries. Panelists included Cliff Fisher, MEI (West Chester, PA); Laurin Miller, Crane Streamware (Norwood, MA); Mark Kronenberg, CompuVend USA (Metairie, LA); and Warren Philips, Validata Computer & Research (Montgomery, AL). Their topic was "Maximize Coffee Service Profitability with Technology."

The moderator observed that all route-based enterprises can benefit by improving the efficiency of their delivery systems and the productivity of their field sales forces. All those that sell product must address order processing and fulfillment issues as well as inventory control and, for anything not sold through vending machines, invoicing and collection.

"How do you measure the return on investment in technology?" Dr. Kasavana asked. "How can it give you a competitive advantage, enhance productivity and improve profits?"

He introduced the panelists, each of whom offered a summary of the computer-based solutions provided by their companies. All of those include both "back-office" management software as well as extensions to handheld computers on the route and in the warehouse.

In the pure water session, Nelson and Rosen surveyed the booming demand for pure water in the workplace, and probed the ways in which companies already providing coffee service can increase same-location sales by offering point-of-use water treatment systems on a rental basis to their existing accounts.

Following a break, the participants again had a choice of two sessions. One, titled "Maximizing Sales and the Breakroom of the Future," was presented by Jim Mosley, Southern Refreshment (Tucker, GA). The other, offering a systematic approach to hiring, was led by NAMA knowledge source consultant Rick Leffke, R.C. Leffke & Associates (Dallas), and Eileen Cooke, a Filterfresh veteran now affiliated with AMR Research, who filled in for Dave McCaffrey of Predictive Assets.

Mosley recommended observation and imagination as the keys to finding profitable extensions to existing coffee service business, and a systematic procedure for obtaining, recording and using detailed client information as the centerpiece of programs to expand sales.

Leffke and Cooke presented a summary of Predictive Assets' "6-Pack" of personnel evaluation tools that help employers identify job candidates whose personalities and abilities suit them to an available job. Pre-hire assessment simplifies selection of candidates to interview, and reduces the chance of making costly mistakes.

The evening was devoted to a networking reception and tabletop exhibition at which manufacturers and suppliers stood ready to describe their products and services for OCS and related businesses.

Participating were Baronet Coffee, Betson Enterprises, Bloomfield Industries, Compuvend, DeMitri & Associates Inc. and Diedrich Coffee -- Gloria Jean's.

Also exhibiting were Domino Foods, Ellis Coffee Co., Everpure, Excelso Coffee & Tea, Follett, Gaviña Gourmet Coffee,  Green Mountain Coffee Roasters, Grindmaster, Harold Young, Holiday House Distributing, Keurig, Kool Tek and Kraft Food Services.

Also Lacas Coffee Co., Lavazza Premium Coffees Corp., Mars Drinks North America LLC, MEI, Nestlé Foodservices, Newco Enterprises, Otis Spunkmeyer and Pacific Applications Inc. 

Also Pacific Brokerage Co., Predictive Assets, Procter & Gamble, Purlogix, Quality Brokerage, Streamware, Sugar Foods  and Tully's Coffee, along with US Roasterie, Validata Computer and Research, Vendors Exchange International, Vistar of Mid-Atlantic, Von Drehle and Wolfgang Puck Coffee Co.

The second day's curriculum was introduced by Leffke, who spoke on the "coffee state of mind." He reminded conference-goers that "We love the future because we're going to spend the rest of our lives there," offered a brief history of the evolution of sales techniques, and summarized the organizational process by which vision interacts with culture.

A perspective on the growing importance of products and policies perceived by patrons and prospects as "friendly" to the environment was provided by Marie-Claude Dessureault of Van Houtte (Montreal) and AMR's Eileen Cooke. They pointed out that positioning an operation as a "good corporate citizen" can be valuable in securing new business today, and publicizing the "sustainability" and other attributes interesting to environmentally aware patrons can build sales.

Wrapping up the Summit was Randy Parks, ProStar Services (Carrollton, TX),  well-known for his lively "coffee service best practices" seminars at NAMA Expos and currently senior vice-chairman of the association. He emphasized that the pace of change is accelerating, and the contemporary market will not wait for operators to catch up. NAMA is a conduit for change, Parks pointed out. He called on operators to "be visionaries, not technicians," observing that the future will belong to proactive risk-takers.

Stewart hailed the success of the NAMA Coffee Service Education Summit. "Obviously we've tapped into an important need within our industry, and need to create more programs and resources that help this segment of our membership understand how to take advantage of the potential growth and profitability," he said. "In fact, this Coffee Summit was such a resounding success plans are already underway for another one."

Information on NAMA programs and services may be found online at the association's website,