As breakroom culture changes, Canteen Canada is aiming for the future while holding on to what matters most: connection.
Today’s breakroom culture is as diverse as we are. Whether we have coffee or kombucha, chug an energy drink, or sip herbal tea, we seek out what appeals to our palates and preferences — as the days of “one-size-fits-most” nourishment rightly fade into history.
As part of the Compass Group, a multinational contract foodservice company headquartered in the UK, Canteen Canada Ltd. leverages the scope and reach of their parent firm to create customized offerings to workplaces of all sizes and descriptions. With 5,000 stock keeping units (SKUs) covering as many as 40 food and beverage categories, that’s a lot of tailoring.
The Ontario-based firm delivers pantry services, coffee and vending services, micro-markets with fully automated inventory and self-checkout kiosks, and state-of-the-art equipment.
An aggressive acquisitions strategy is fueling the firm’s growth, but it’s the execution of that strategy that has distinguished Canteen from the standard institutional foodservice players in the business. We recently spoke to company president Jerome Vos, CMA, to understand just how much differentiation matters in the office foodservice sector, and how this innovative young company is meeting the expectations of the country’s evolving office service landscape.
“Ours is a different culture for a number of reasons, one being that Canteen Canada is made up of different supplier companies that all have their own culture,” Vos noted. “Our future vision of culture doesn't paint every branch or operation with the same brush. Because of differences in regional tastes and preferences, the services our clients expect need to be different. We need each unique operating environment that matches what the customer is looking for in our marketplace.”
Preserving the culture of acquired firms is central to Canteen’s success. “We are going through a cultural evolution at a very conscious, slow pace. As we acquire owner operator companies, organizations that act like family and have built strong relationships over their history, we don't want to lose that. We want to augment that. We keep legacy cultures alive as we transition them into Canteen’s culture,” he explained.
It’s a smart approach that suppliers appreciate. After owning his own office coffee service in Alberta for 30 years, Scott Dawson sold his eponymous firm DawsCo Coffee Service Ltd. to Compass Group Canada in April 2018. He was retained by Canteen “to provide a higher level of coffee expertise and to provide insight into how coffee relates to the world of office breakroom provisions,” he told BOSS.
“My 30-plus years of experience enables Canteen to take best practices that myself and my team have developed over the years and either introduce them to or refine them in the branches we acquire. Canteen’s approach to markets across Canada has been to hopefully acquire that best operators in each market.
“This well-developed strategy has yielded some of the finest office coffee service providers across the country, which will in turn allow us to build our brand nationally and compete in the office refreshment space on that level where the waters are a little clearer. We are building our business on the intricate levels of service and quality, yet these traits are already established in the markets we now operate in.
“These amazing and dynamic companies now operating under the Canteen banner are something every executive should know and derive confidence from when Canteen is selected to provide our unique brand of service to their staff. That choice comes with a pedigree of providing long-term ‘best in class’ services to fulfill the needs of each particular client.”
For a quarter century, Ventrex Vending has been providing a premium customer service experience in Ottawa and greater Montreal, most recently as part of the Canteen family. “Combined with state of the art equipment and innovation, we very much believed that our vision was aligned with Canteen and as such would contribute significantly to our coast to coast endeavors,” reported division president Francois Bastien.
“As an entrepreneur who started the business in the mid ‘90s, it’s quite unbelievable to now be part of a world class organization and to know that every day I play a significant role and contribute to building a Canadian refreshments powerhouse. I’m having a blast!”
Said Vos, “We look at where our perspective, practices, systems, and tools can enhance or augment what the companies we acquire are doing … and it also works the other way around. We look at where their capabilities will enhance what we're doing in the rest of Canteen.”
He pointed to the way the company is strengthening its social media presence through the acquisition of a partner with the robust social media expertise they need. “(It’s) a great practice that we should be doing, but we didn't have the time, resources, or knowledge of how to do it, so we acquired a company that had it. … We picked up a better practice from them than what we had, and we're going to implement that.”
The company is investing in next generation dispensing technologies, from beverage equipment, self-service pantries, and robotic frozen treat machines that feature built in analytics that enable Canteen to predict maintenance needs and serve their customers proactively.
“The success of our vending business is based on working machines being stocked with product. With over 12,000 machines, we rely on USA Technologies Seed Cloud software to know when machines are running low and need service,” Vos revealed. “This information enables us to know what products need to be adding giving our drivers and organized truck with bins that will fill each machine. The system helps keep the machines full, drivers productive and safe.”
Canteen’s suppliers are integral to helping the firm spot and fulfill new trends, which vary throughout each province, and in many cases, each city. Take tea, which is currently taking coffee-loving Canada by storm. “Tea is a critical part of office coffee services with more and more Canadians looking for organic, fair trade, and delicious tea options. Our partnership with Teaja achieves those objectives and with a loose leaf program, provides the opportunity for drinkers to customize the tea to their liking.”
The success of Canteen’s micro market strategy, according to Vos, “comes through ensuring a variety of fresh food options such as the salads and sandwiches we use through our partnership with Classic Cuisine. We always have a selection available and a payment station that has a high level of reliability such as the ones we use through 365 Retail Markets.”
There is one significant differentiator that is the same everywhere Canteen can be found, and that’s their exceptional people. “It's part of both the Compass and Canteen culture that we recognize, appreciate, and reward the great people that we have,” he stressed.
The same recognition is given to their coveted supplier partners. “We protect what people have spent their whole lives building,” Vos concluded.
Anyone can bring your business vending machines and office coffee service products, but Canteen Canada offers you more. Canteen’s highly trained and dedicated staff listens and asks questions to fully understand your needs. Then they develop a specific, custom solution that combines the ideal mix of services and products, whether it’s coffee and tea service, micro-markets, or their superior vending machine snacks and drinks with state-of-the-art vending equipment. Canteen’s modern vending machines include mobile payments with Google Wallet and Apple Pay in addition to wireless technology that reports the vending machine status and which products are sold out. All of this is provided free of charge to your business.