Our vending machine requirements
I work at a medium-sized business with about 15-staff based at our office in Southampton, Hampshire. We have a small kitchen area in the office - and the company has always kindly provided free tea and coffee for customers and visitors through use of an ordinary kettle, teabags and instant coffee.
This arrangement worked fine originally, but as the company has grown and more people added to the office, the frequent tea and coffee rounds were becoming more of a pain. The kettle of course takes ages to boil - and on those unlucky times when everyone in the building happens to want a cup of something, one kettle load was not enough, and you had to wait for two kettle-fulls to boil.
Added to that the inconvenience of teabags and coffee running out just at the wrong moment and the constant dashes up to the shop to re-fill, it started to become apparent that we had outgrown the traditional kettle - and needed a more serious office coffee machine instead.
The one thing that was particularly important, working in an agency business where time is literally money, was the sheer amount of time that was being wasted each day once you took in to account the boiling of kettles and the runs up to the shop to re-supply.
So we started shopping around for a suitable drinks vending machine that would cater for a relatively small office environment, where space is at a premium. Obviously one of the traditional 6-ft high drinks vending machines that you might find in a large office complex would not be for us - and I was pleased when I stumbled across Kafevend and saw their smaller-sized table-top drinks machines, which looked like the ideal compromise for a business of our size.
The Kafevend sales and quote process
I rang Kafevend for a quote and a visit by their regional representative was immediately arranged. He turned up the very next day and brought with him one of the Flavia 400 machines to demonstrate in the office. Of course this generated quite a buzz among the team here, as he fired up the machine and dished out free drinks to everyone.
The regional rep explained the options for hiring the machine for a fixed period of time (far preferable to us than actually buying one) and the way that charging is based on how many drinks you consume.
He had an impressive way of justifying the costs - analysing our previous spend on tea and coffee purchased from the local shop, plus the amount of time each day people were spending making tea and coffee with the kettle - and was able to convincingly show that, over a year, we'd be better off all round with the Flavia drinks machine in the office. Not to mention the added convenience - and the fact that the machine actually looks pretty smart as the centre-piece of our reception area.
So we signed the deal and looked forward to the new office coffee machine arriving as soon as we could get our hands on one.
Vending machine installation and delivery
We didn't have to wait long as the very next day we had a call to arrange delivery which, despite being over the Christmas holiday period, was scheduled for just a few days' time.
Communication about the delivery was great - as the office was on a skeleton staff working reduced Christmas hours, but Kafevend called us with a delivery slot window and then the delivery driver rang when he was nearby just to double-check that it was convenient to deliver. That certainly made our lives easier and was a nice personal touch. Sure enough, the machine arrived in a couple of separate boxes, which we were told to leave alone for the time-being until an engineer could visit to set up and commission the machine.
Setup and first use of the Flavia machine
We didn't have to wait long, as the engineer was here about an hour later! Perhaps it's because it was a slow time of year being over Christmas and maybe the service and installation isn't quite so rapid normally, but we were sure impressed by the speed with which they got it all sorted.
There wasn't really much to it - although you can have the Flavia machines plumbed in directly to the water supply, the positioning in our office made this difficult, so it is completely free-standing and didn't require any plumbing. He just assembled the machine in about 10-minutes and then gave us an instruction session on how it works...
How it works
The machine needs filling with water if it's not plumbed in, which is just done from a jug of water taken from the tap. For the first month they recommend you use a Brita filter (which Kafevend provided free) just while the machine beds in - but we were advised that actually the chlorine from our water supply was needed for the machine once it's bedded in, so you should only use the filter for the first month.
The Flavia needs plugging in to the power supply - and has an internal boiler that keeps the water inside at a temperature close to boiling point. Here's another added benefit of an office coffee machine that we hadn't previously considered - and that's the energy saving compared with constantly boiling the kettle each time. The Flavia keeps the temperature of the water constant, so drinks are served up instantly compared with the long, arduous wait for the kettle!
Making a drink with the machine is completely foolproof. You simply slot a cup on to the cup stand (Kafevend provide disposable cups or you can fit your own mug in to it if you prefer) and select the drink you want from the digital screen (tea, coffee, hot chocolate, etc).
Flavia drinks come in small sachets, which are all stored in the separate display stand. When you're ready to make a drink, the front of the machine pops open and you simply slot the sachet of your choice in to the machine. Close the door and it starts brewing and dispensing your drink immediately.
A cup of tea or coffee from the Flavia takes no more than about 20-seconds to dispense. You then simply add your own milk and sugar (Kafevend provide sachets, stirrers and pots if required, or you can use your own).
That's all there is to it! The empty sachet is mysteriously sucked away in to the internals of the machine, so there is no waste to clear up, you just take your drink out and you're done.
Something we've noticed is that in the old days of using a kettle, if one person wanted a tea or coffee, they of course felt obliged to offer to make a round for everyone else in the office. Sometimes the tea-maker can get lucky and time their cuppa for when no-one else wants one, but more often than not, if you want a cup of tea or coffee yourself, you're stuck making one for 10 or 12 others too, which - with two boils of the kettle and all the standing around waiting for it to brew, could make the entire process 10 to 15-minutes long or so!
With the new Flavia vending machine though, the whole need to offer a cup to everyone else is completely removed - as it's so quick and easy, everyone just does their own - saving a considerable amount of labour time each day.
Available drinks options
The convenience, time and cost-saving aspects are of course all compelling reasons for getting a Flavia machine, but in reality it's the choice of drinks that really gets Kafevend the sale each time.
Our original expectation was just for a simple office tea or coffee vending machine and we had no idea, until the Kafevend rep turned up, that there is a huge choice of additional drinks - and variations of each one - to choose from.
The machine was delivered with a selection of sachets for tea, including English Breakfast, regular, Peppermint, Lemon, Herbal, Earl Grey - and a variety of others that I never even knew existed. Coffee came in varieties of Smooth Roast, Mild Roast, Colombian, Espresso, Decaf, Rich Roast - and, looking on the Kafevend website it seems there are even more to choose from there.
However a quick favourite in our office was the options for hot chocolate, cappuccino, and the 'Mars Swirl', which basically tastes like a delicious liquid Mars Bar. Better still, it turns out you can even mix drinks together to create your own coffee / chocolate flavours too.
Maintenance and cleaning
There's not really much to say on this subject thankfully. What we didn't want was a vending machine that we needed to be responsible for maintaining and repairing - and thanks to the lease / hire arrangement, we're delighted that we don't have to worry about this at all. If the machine goes wrong (which it hasn't done), a Kafevend engineer comes out and sorts it out / replaces it completely for you, at no cost and no trouble to us at all.
The only thing we need to do is clean around the machine every now and again (which the office cleaners do at the weekend) - and empty the 'pack bin', which is the internal part of the machine where the empty sachets get deposited. Every now and again a friendly alert comes up on the digital screen advising you to empty the pack bin, which takes about 10-seconds to simply remove it and empty it in to the bin.
The only other thing we need to do every now and again is refill the machine with water (because ours is not plumbed in) - and an alert is displayed whenever it's getting low in order to let you do just that.
Because of the popularity of the Flavia in our office, we're getting through drinks supplies pretty quickly - but thankfully the cost-per drink is pleasantly low (and, as I mentioned above, balances out over the year to be lower than the old inefficient kettle and instant method we had before). When the sachets in the display stand begin to run low, there is a re-order hotline you can ring - or you can order your supplies from the Kafevend website if you prefer. Delivery is next-day by courier - and we have even been pleasantly surprised a couple of times by some free samples of additional drinks that we haven't tried before being thrown in!
Overall, we have been delighted with the Flavia. It seems a bit odd to get overly-excited about an office coffee machine I know, but it has just added an extra feel of professionalism to the office environment here. We even put together a little menu for our meeting room so when clients visit, no longer are they faced with the usual choice of "tea or coffee" but can choose from the huge array of other options too, which is a nice touch when trying to impress a potential new client!
The Flavia 400 is an ideal drinks vending machine for a small to medium sized business - or a great addition to a reception area in a larger company. I was surprised recently to be visiting a client in London with a huge office complex (which has its own staff canteen and vending facilities) but they had a Flavia in their reception just for visitors who were waiting in their seating area.
So all in all, definitely something we would recommend to any business looking for a new vending machine for the office. A neat little unit with great, speedy service from Kafevend.
by Andrew Brittain