An international coffee franchise is bringing a new type of coffee shop to Ohio. Cafe2U is a coffee house on wheels, delivering gourmet espresso drinks to workplaces where workers can't easily slip away for a gourmet coffee break.
It's the first franchise in Ohio for Cafe2U, an Australian-born company that has 200 locations worldwide and which expanded into the United States in 2012. The local franchise is owned by Norman Amstutz, a quality assurance manager for JPMorgan Chase, and David Bowman, a former bus driver for the Central Ohio Transit Authority. They signed a franchise agreement in January and plan to begin serving customers in April.
Cafe2U squeezes a full barista bar into a bright red van. The back cargo doors swing open to reveal a $7,000 espresso machine and a $1,000 coffee bean grinder; the sliding side door reveals a refrigerator full of milk, soda, energy drinks, deli sandwiches, snacks, and desserts. The drink menu includes classic espresso options like latté, americano, mocha, macchiato, chai latté, and, during summer months, iced coffee, frozen coffee drinks, and smoothies.
There's a lot to choose from. It's like an ice cream truck for adults -- and that's the point.
"People who are trapped at their desks most of the day or who are in areas without much retail love us," says Scott Bundy, president and CEO of Cafe2U USA, which is based in Bend, Oregon. "Suddenly, instead of settling for office coffee and frozen dinners, they can get the excellent coffee shop drinks they love, and gourmet sandwiches and treats."
Wonder how good coffee served from the back of a van can be?
Bowman and Amstutz wondered that, too, which is why they visited franchisee Scott Phillips in Denver before buying into the business.
"We pulled into this shopping plaza, and Scott was serving a Chase bank -- and on both ends of the plaza there was a Starbucks, but the bank employees wanted Scott," Bowman says.
Columbus is the sixth location for Cafe2U USA, which believes the $19 billion U.S. coffee market can support 1,000 mobile espresso vans.