The Transit Connect vans Cafe2U is using have espresso making equipment and an on-board generator.

The Transit Connect vans Cafe2U is using have espresso making equipment and an on-board generator.

MINNEAPOLIS – Cafe2U is a new mobile café business opening in the U.S. The company, which is based in Australia and conducts business in the U.K. and Ireland, plans to expand its service offerings throughout the U.S. Cafe2U started a pilot program in San Diego, Calif. to test the waters in the U.S. market. With the pilot program a success, the company is launching its first U.S.-based fleet in Oregon, where its U.S. headquarters is based.

Automotive Fleet corresponded with Cafe2U's U.S. President Lee Johns, who discussed what the company has planned in terms of growth in the U.S. and how it works with its franchisees to manage their vehicles.

The company’s stated goal is to have roughly 3,000 mobile café units across the U.S. in the next 5 to 7 years. Johns said Cafe2U selected the Ford Transit Connect as its fleet vehicle due to its efficiency, affordability, and the mobility it provides its franchisees.

“We are on schedule to have 50 units in operation year one,” said Johns. “Orders are being placed as new franchisees are signing up. The entire U.S. is ready for great espresso to be brought to the workplace. Inquiries are coming from everywhere. We are very fortunate to have Oregon opening up first as our US Corporate HQ is here also.”

The company is launching with two options for potential franchisees, single- and multi-unit franchises and area representative. Single- and multi-unit franchisees will operate one or more Cafe2U-branded and equipped vans. An area representative, on the other hand, recruits and manages a group of single- or multi-unit franchisees in a geographic territory.

Each franchisee will manage his or her own vehicle(s), but Cafe2U corporate orders the Transit Connect vans, and handles upfitting and delivery, as part of the franchise agreement. In addition, Cafe2U corporate generates report on all aspects of the business, including vehicle-related costs, for its franchisees.

“Extensive Cafe2U franchise training is the key to vehicle operation and maintenance,” Johns said. “A development manager rides with the new franchisee for two weeks establishing routes and systems protocol before the franchisee is on their own. Monthly and quarterly reports for all components are calculated by Cafe2U to insure the franchisee is as operating as efficient and successfully as possible.”

The company upfits each new Transit Connect van with an espresso machine, grinder, and refrigerator. A Cummins Onan Commercial Mobile Quiet Gasoline 5500 generator powers that equipment. Cafe2U has worked with Cummins Onan for eight years and uses those generators on its vehicles in Australia, the U.K., and Ireland. The generator has an enclosed muffler for easier installation, diagnostic capabilities, and digital regulation to maintain voltage stability as loads change.

To upfit the Transit Connect vans, Cafe2U works with a company called Truck Utilities, which is based in St. Paul, Minn. Johns said the upfitting process went smoothly, with only minor modifications being required to add the café equipment to the vehicle.

“Cummins Onan designed the airflow needed for the generator and Truck Utilities fabricated and customized the cargo area to fit our components perfectly,” Johns said.

By Greg Basich