In the latest edition of our My Coffee Journey series, we speak with Dan Levy, Retail Operations Director at Connect Vending, to hear about his experiences with coffee, his career in the vending industry and why everyone should strive for great quality coffee.
What was your first experience of coffee?
My first coffee experience was in sixth form, when I’d learnt how to drive and was able to go out and explore the world. Coffee was the way I kept myself alive and kicking as a designated driver, bringing everyone home at 5 in the morning, after a night out!
I started to properly understand coffee and embark on my coffee journey for good when I came into the industry. Drinking it regularly and interacting with the coffee world every day has given me a different perspective of the industry.
With anything food or drink, your tastebuds evolve over time and you start to enjoy different tastes, which has definitely been the case for me.
What’s your favourite coffee?
My favourite coffee isn’t actually my regular drink. I really like a Latte or a Cappuccino, something smooth but with a nice espresso base, but as I’m often up early or doing long drives I opt for an Americano to give me a caffeine boost. Anyone out there with kids will know how important this is!
I’m not too keen on bitter drinks and I do like to try different variations whenever I can. I’ll always have a sweetener in my coffee to balance the flavours and make it easy to drink.
Over your time in the industry, what’s the best coffee you’ve had and from which machine?
The best coffee that I’ve had is from a Franke machine – in my opinion, nothing comes close to the quality of the drinks you get out of these coffee machines.
In terms of an automatic machine, you can’t go wrong with a Coffetek Vitro. It’s a simple, straightforward experience to get coffee out of the machine and you’re always going to get great quality coffee.
What’s the biggest change you’ve seen since your coffee journey began?
I would say the shift from instant to bean coffee has been the biggest change. A lack of understanding of what could be achieved with vending machines meant that this change didn’t happen as soon as it might’ve – high street coffee shops change their beans every four hours or so, and this isn’t something that fit in with the typical view of vending. This has now changed and the world of vending is much more open to innovation and embracing new ways of doing things.
Because of the shift to bean-to-cup solutions, drink quality has obviously improved with bean to cup solutions, but logistically there is a greater reliance on operators and staff to maintain and support those vending solutions compared with instant machines.
Do you feel that workplace food and beverage solutions are becoming more experience and lifestyle aligned?
High street brands have had an impact on peoples’ mentalities, which over 15 years has led to a fundamental shift away from tea and created a nation of hardcore coffee drinkers. There was initially concern that the vending world would suffer from the rise of high street coffee brands, but the reality has been the opposite – people are so used to having good quality coffee in their personal lives that they now expect this by extension in their workplaces.
You almost need to provide coffee before you offer water, now, it’s that important. Depending on where the solutions are being offered, this could mean a cheaper drink which is quicker to dispense and at high volumes, or it could be a fantastic quality coffee which takes time to make and has to fit in with the aesthetics of an expensive designer kitchen.
How important is it for you, to be a coffee person when you’re working in this industry?
It’s hugely important. The assumption is that we are a vending supplier, whereas the reality is that we are fast food and drink suppliers who just so happen to deliver that through vending. It isn’t all about the machines and the technology, it’s about finding the right solution for the customer when it comes to quality, variety and availability of the end product that people consume.
Our staff need to know about coffee and be able to explain it to those who are consuming it, especially those who are interacting with workplaces and machines every day, our engineers and operators.
We want people to understand that we care deeply about our products and services, including coffee, and want them to know that we have a breadth of knowledge and expertise in the world of vending.
You can never stop learning, you can never stop moving forward and listening to the needs of those end-users. We always want to be at the forefront of technology, always developing and becoming better at what we do every day.