Vantage Fuels Bowser Bean Cafe was awarded the 2023 Large Retailer of the Year at the inaugural Australian Fuel & Convenience Awards Dinner in Brisbane.

The Award was presented to Kelly Tracey on behalf of Vantage Fuels Bowser Bean Cafe, by External Judge Sandy Chong, CEO of the Australian Hairdressing Council.

“The AFC Awards are an externally and independently judged merit based awards program that recognises excellence, and Vantage Fuels and their Bowser Bean Cafe are great examples of redefining what great retail really is,” explains ACAPMA CEO Mark McKenzie.

“All of the Nominees and Finalists were exceptional operators who really do enrich their communities by being part of them, and they all have a reason to be proud, but there can only be one winner, and this year its Vantage Fuels and their Bowser Bean Cafe”, added Mark.

As the industry congratulates the 2023 Large Retailer of the Year we take a moment to look a little deeper at this Award Winning Business.

 

AFC Award Profile:  Vantage Fuels Bowser Bean Cafe

SERVING UP AN ‘UN-SERVO-LIKE’ MIX 

Bowser Bean cites its service mix and price point as delivering convenience and value for its customers, which its Managing Director says has meant “we’ve remained relevant even in the current economic climate”.


Offering barista made coffee, “high quality” fresh food, a broad range of everyday convenience items and a “welcoming” cafe ambience, Bowser Bean operates at around 40 Vantage Fuels sites across NSW and Victoria, and claims to have achieved continued success recently.


“Since Covid, we’ve observed an uptick in the utilisation of our dine-in areas and this has seen Bowser Bean establish itself as a favoured local destination,” Bowser Bean Managing Director Haydn Tierney said.


“Our local customers love the convenience, consistency and quality of our offer, not to mention its great value. Our food promotional deals, including ‘Burger Wednesday’ and ‘Muffin Monday, are celebrated in our local communities. “While we’ve observed some stagnation of fuel volume over the past six months, our customers are seeking out comfort food and are looking to our offer to provide convenience and value.” The challenge of staff availability has persisted throughout 2023, he acknowledges, but this has prompted Bowser Bean proactively to focus on staff learning and development and the rollout of employee engagement programs, with the aim of enhancing team skills, engagement and morale. “An ongoing challenge for the industry remains changing customer perceptions around service stations being a grudge destination,” Mr Tierney said. “However, Bowser Bean’s outlook remains promising and we’re actively seeking to establish our stores as destinations worth stopping for.

A competitive operator

Bowser Bean take pride in its ‘cafe- first’ focus. “Internally, we describe operations as being “very un-servo” and are committed to delivering stores that are worth stopping for,” Mr Tierney said. “We do this by providing high quality food and exceptional coffee, all packaged in a convenient and enticing cafe setting. “At Bowser Bean, we don’t want to be known just as a destination for fuelling cars. We want to help our customers power their day.”


The Bowser Bean brand was launched in 2017 as a means of highlighting its food and coffee offer. Last year, the company also launched its transitional brand, ‘Bowser Bound’. “As our Bowser Bean fit-out standards are industry leading, our site refurbishment projects take time- and are becoming increasingly expensive – so the Bowser Bound brand serves to signal to our customers that the store is stepping away from a traditional servo offer and towards our Bowser Bean target,” Mr Tierney said.

“At Bowser Bean, we see our size and reputation as being one of our key competitive advantages,” he said. “Our brand is well recognised and our operations are well respected. Our suppliers want our business and seek us out for partnering opportunities. However, we’re also small and nimble enough to move quickly on new opportunities and adapt to changing market needs.


“Another key competitive advantage is our expertise in the food and coffee space. We’ve operated kitchens in our stores since the 1980s and we’ve combined this knowledge with technology-based solutions to create QSR-style systems and processes that ensure excellence in the delivery of our food and coffee operations.”


Key initiatives


Employee engagement survey

“Our team is the foundation of our success,” Mr Tierney said. “Our employee engagement survey, ‘Spill the Beans’, serves as a business pulse check. The survey is sent quarterly to all team members and enables us to ensure we have our finger on the pulse regarding the needs of our team. We use the survey to inform new employee engagement programs, develop and enhance our internal training program, and consider other ways to ensure our team is properly resourced and supported.”

Sustainability achievements and goals
“To date, our sustainability efforts have been focused on our shop and kitchen operations,” Mr Tierney said. An important part of this has been the implementation of a discount program for customers who bring their own coffee cups, he adds. “We’ve run this program for several years and are pleased to encourage customers to choose reusable cups over disposable ones,” he said. “We also offer our own branded keep cups for purchase.”

Another sustainability initiative is the custom-designed ‘Bowser Basins’ – “uniquely styled” wash basins located in Bowser Bean dining areas that allow customers to wash their hands, refill their water bottles and even pour themselves some sparkling water.

“These services have been well received by our customers and have played a role in diverting plastic waste from landfill,” Mr Tierney said. “As part of our ongoing commitment to sustainability, we’re also in the process of transitioning to a new packaging supplier with the aim of significantly reducing the environmental impact of our packaging. We’re looking forward to providing an update here.”

Supporting communities

Bowser Bean recognises the role communities play in its success as the company seeks ways to support and give back to its communities.

“Our efforts following the devasting Victorian floods in 2022 serve as a shining example,” Mr Tierney said. “Our team deployed our food and coffee trailer at our site in the flood devasted town of Rochester. We stocked the trailer with burgers, sandwiches and coffee and provided free food relief to the town’s residents and emergency service workers. “This initiative was supported by a number of our key partners, including BP and PFD, and their assistance is and was greatly appreciated.”


Mr Tierney continued: “We also take great pride in supporting our local community football clubs. As part of our sponsorship, we send our famous ‘Bowser Bean Coffee Kombi to support our teams during home games. This not only serves to ensure the crowd is well caffeinated, but also provides a great opportunity for us to showcase not only our fantastic product, but also the great skills of our team behind the coffee machine.”

What’s next

Bowser Bean is exploring options in the technology and digital space to improve the way it serves customers. Projects launching soon will include its bespoke app and improved loyalty programs. “As always, we have several refurbishment projects in the pipeline and are exploring new site development opportunities,” Mr Tierney said. “Lots to come.”

“We provide high quality food and exceptional coffee, all packaged in a convenient and enticing cafe setting. At Bowser Bean, we don’t want to be known just as a destination for fuelling cars.”

 

More Information

For more information on the Australian Fuel & Convenience Awards, the Nominees, Finalists and Winners; to nominate for the AFC Awards; or be there to support the industry visit:  https://apfiforum.com/afc-awards

Elisha Radwanowski BCom(HRM&IR)
ACAPMA

 

Portions of this Profile first appeared in the September Issue of Convenience World – https://convenienceworldmagazine.com.au/magazines/cw-september-2023/

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