For Alan Fulton of Cafe2U, “coffee is always the main part of any hospitality operation”.
The self-confessed coffee fanatic has been in the hospitality industry since 1997, starting out as an assistant restaurant manager working in and around north-east venues.
And his work has involved him serving up tasty brews to members of the public ever since.
“Coffee is just as important as a customer’s welcome through the door,” Alan added.
“Over the years, I’ve developed my expertise in coffee because I’m quite an inquisitive person. It’s simply involved me drinking a whole cross-section of beans and learning all about methods of production.
“Also, prior to running my own business, I’ve always worked with good coffee suppliers that gave me a good base.”
After doing diligent research into UK coffee franchises to consider being a part of, Alan says that Cafe2U – a mobile coffee brand – continuously came out on top.
So after spotting a local van up for sale, the entrepreneur was eager to learn the ropes and be a part of the ever-growing business.
Alan said: “I saw a local van was up for sale and spent a day with Laura, Cafe2U owner, to see the joy on her customers’ faces. It hit me that this brand had so much more to it than just offering coffee and knew it was for me.
“I went and set up a van in the south of Aberdeen. During the setup process, the team at head office were so passionate about the entire package – it was easy to see why Cafe2U is the global leader in our field.
“The training week you do at the head office prior to launching your van is the part where my journey came to life.
“Our trainer, John Skinner, is the oracle on coffee and tea and lives to teach people how to make the best bespoke handcrafted coffees.
“Without his passion for the topic, the coffee world is in trouble.”
Cafe2U was established in Australia in 2000, before making its way to the UK in 2005.
Now, the brand has 90 vans based across the UK. However, there are only two in Scotland – both Aberdeen-based – one of which is run by Alan.
“My belief is that we have the best core ingredient at the heart of our business – our coffee,” Alan said.
“The north-east has a huge appetite for coffee and the ability our vans give to have great coffee delivered directly to a workplace is unmatched.
“Cafe2U are the global leaders in delivering award-winning gourmet handcrafted coffee, delivered to nontraditional locations – i.e. not coffee shop based serving members of the public inside.
“Our 18-gram espresso menu is the largest on the market. It’s a coffee lover’s heaven.
“Whether it’s a morning boost espresso to a hot chocolate to warm up with, I have something for everyone. I’ve seen our coffee quickly turns non-coffee drinkers into coffee addicts.
“Aberdeen’s most popular choice on the menu is a large latte. My van carries almost 100 flavour combinations.
“Additionally, I have three blends of hot chocolate, chai, matcha and turmeric powders, and some tea for the non-coffee drinkers too of course.
“The van also offers the classic eight combinations of coffees, from the lighter options like a macchiato and flat whites to the heavier latte and cappuccino.”
Being the owner and operator of his van, Alan is responsible for everything from stock ordering, maintenance and accounts, to developing his menu and, of course, deliveries.
While coffee is at the heart of Cafe2U, customers can also opt for a tasty treat to accompany their brew.
“I truly am a one-man-band,” Alan said. “I have built a really loyal customer base, which is the most rewarding part of the job.
“Other than coffee, I have full reign over developing the food side of things.
“I’ve used JG Ross of Inverurie since I launched in 2014 for the majority of products. And I now stock produce from The Cupcake Stop as well.
“My van has a selection of five bread sandwiches, classic local butteries, large American pancakes, and an incredible pie selection.
“For those looking for a ‘fine piece’, I prefer to support other local small businesses. So, I stock cookies, tray bakes, donuts, yum yums, empire biscuits and rocky road to name a few from some local suppliers.
“I always say to new customers I can serve your three main meals plus your snacks, and keep you hydrated and caffeinated every working day.”
Alan is proud to say that he has retained 90% of his initial customers for the past seven years.
And while the coronavirus pandemic has had a detrimental impact on businesses across the globe, he refuses to let it get the better of him and his role.
Alan said: “I am incredibly proud to be a part of this brand.
“The relationship between the franchisor and the franchisee makes the brand continue to grow year in year and the relationship between the franchisee and the client base makes the business successful.
“I still have 90% of my initial customers since 2014. To me, that is a complete testament to the core product and gives me the faith that the need for my services will be there in another six years plus.
“Cafe2U is a very progressive franchise – and there will be more exciting additions to come in 2021.
“There’s been so many highlights for me over the years. However, the key ones have been the initial launch, meeting my clients, and seeing the daily route take shape.
“I was grateful to be voted best newcomer franchise partner in 2014. In 2016, I was voted as best franchise partner of the year for the UK, which is something I’ll treasure for the rest of my days.
“But the biggest highlight of all (and there have been many) happens every Monday morning when I go back out to work after the weekend, and catch up with my clients to news over a great cup of coffee.”
Email [email protected] or call 07751 959474 to contact Alan.
A Round of Questions with Alan Fulton
Keen to find out more about Alan? Take a look at how he got on in our round of questions below.
What’s your customer ice breaker?
I like my clients to feel at ease. I always welcome them with a warm smile and say “welcome to the wee red van of happiness.”
It’s the end of your shift – what do you pour yourself?
A flat white, for sure.
If you were a coffee/drink, what would you be and why?
I’d be a 2001 Rioja – it’s soft and warm on appearance with gentle undertones of spice and intrigue, with a long-lasting memory (oh cringe).
Most unusual coffee/drink you’ve ever tried?
Coffee wise, definitely a rum-soaked bean from Key West in Florida. It was very unusual but very tasty.
What would the theme song to your average shift be?
I’m not so much a songbird. However, the Chris and Rosie Ramsay podcast is always playing in the van whilst I’m on the go.
What’s in your drinks cabinet at home?
Red wine, white wine, gin, brandy and… I’ll stop there.
Best food and drink pairing?
Beef wellington – but only Gleneagles beef wellington – with a bottle of 2001 Gadium from Marques de Caceras rounded off with a French press of Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee.
If you were stuck on a desert island, what three drinks would be there with you?
Obviously coffee, milk and red wine.
You have to make a drink to represent Aberdeen. What would that be?
It’d have to be a large caramel latte – during lockdown, I was serving hundreds of these weekly. It gives you both a pick me up and a little sweetness.
You have to serve your favourite superhero or celebrity a drink. Who is it and what do you serve them?
Being a big muppets fan, it would be Rowlf – the piano playing dog. I think he’d enjoy an espresso martini whilst playing his tunes.