Tasty Fresh Food Company has been a Nearmap customer since 2013. A nationally franchised mobile cafe business, Tasty uses Nearmap’s imagery in a proprietary app to map out routes for van drivers and identify new regions for expansion. We spoke to Wigga Lees, who started at Tasty as a lunch truck driver and built their franchise business from the ground up.
Aerial imagery isn’t something you naturally associate with a mobile cafe business — and yet Tasty is one of the most innovative users of Nearmap in terms of how you integrate our imagery into your operations. How did you initially discover Nearmap, and what made you take the leap into using aerial imagery?
It was initially recommended by a neighbour, a police detective. I thought we could use it to get a better understanding of our routes.
We have over 100 vans and service the same companies every day. We make between 45-65 stops per round between 7:30am and 1:30pm every day, so we’re under the pump, on a new job every five minutes. Once we get out to an area, we service that whole area and then return to base. We’re not going from suburb to suburb; it’s actually street to street. We’re at each stop on average three minutes at a time.
When you have your regular driver they know their route inside out, but when they’re off sick or they have annual leave, we have a relief driver team. Before Nearmap, we’d take notes on how you get from one stop to the next. With Nearmap, even if a driver has never been on that run before, they can use our app [integrated with Nearmap’s API] and get from A to B. It’ll drive you there, and show you a picture of where to park. It has made life so much easier. No more note-taking!
What’s your origin story — how did you end up at Tasty Fresh Food Co lunch van company?
I was working for a publishing company as a production manager for large glossies: putting the right picture with the right text. I was with them for ten or twelve years; basically I had stepped up the the ladder as much as I could. I thought, “OK, let’s do something else.” I resigned and did a couple love jobs for friends over the next couple of years. Then one day I was driving past Tasty Trucks, and I’d been meaning to pop in there for a long time. This particular afternoon I saw cars in the car park and thought, “Oh I’ll just drop in.”
What was it that made you want to stop in? Did you know who they were?
I was really interested in it, I mean, “God, how do they run a lunch truck? Surely it’s fairly simple.” I was just intrigued. I knew nothing about the industry, apart from the fact that places where I’d worked I’d seen these little lunch trucks turn up and thought, “Oh that’d be fun — you get to meet people, talk to people.”
So you started as a driver?
I did. I was a single mum, two kids. We spoke about it and my two little ones said, “That’s a really good idea, mum, cause you’re never home.” I was on 24/7 with my previous job. My kids said, “You don’t even know what school we go to. Now you can pick us up from school, that’s a great idea.” So I did it.
That was a leap of faith!
We only had the one depot back then with about 30 vans. Then I went out to Tullamarine and built that from scratch,
and I just moved on from there — I went to Newcastle and built that, now I’m in Sydney, and we’re in Perth as well. I think I’d only been at Tasty two months and I said to Colin, our CEO, “Why don’t you franchise these things?” He’d been working on a model for a year, and asked if I could do the first one for him, and it just went berserk from there.
When you started building out the franchises in different cities, what is that process like?
It’s all industrial, so we are basically researching the industrial areas.
If I want to put a new run out, a new van into a new area, how do I make that decision of which area I’m going into next? They’re all as good as each other.
Nearmap will tell me potentially the size of the industrial area — factories, warehouses, logistics, construction.
Once you’ve done that initial market sizing, and figuring out the route, getting businesses to buy into it, do you then do more refining?
We continue to refine always. Then with Nearmap, every single place I go to, in our app, on my phone, I can put in the coordinates as to where it is we’re going, and see “this is the driveway, and this is the park.” It is amazing.
To paraphrase you, this business is not just about little trucks driving around dropping off sandwiches. What else is involved?
As a van sales manager, you are taking ownership of that van, and it’s a mobile cafe — it’s like your own little business. You’ve got to get to your stops on time and there’s a lot of time pressure, you’ve got to manage your money, you’ve got to increase your sales, you’ve got to cook your food as you go. It’s quite full on.
It seems like Tasty is blending an old-world business model — food delivery — with new-world technology platforms. Do you consider yourself a technology professional?
I am the worst at technology. I drive our national IT manager mad. I have no idea.
But you had enough idea to suggest this service.
Yes. But I just say, “Looks good to me, go and sort that out, and when it’s all sorted, come and show me what buttons I have to push.”
I still think understanding the potential for technology is a way of being a technology leader, even if you’re not the person who plugs things in and sets them up and makes them work.
Yes. What we use today is amazing. It’s saved us so much time.
Your husband also works for Tasty.
He started four years after I did. He realised if he did not become a part of it, he would not see me. He was a corporate bank manager; he gave that away to drive a lunch van.
Just so he could relocate and be near you? That’s love!
We created a national operations manager position. I trained my husband up to be me in Victoria, and then I came to Sydney. We have five depots, two in VIC and two in NSW, so my husband spends two weeks in Melbourne, a week at each depot, and two weeks in NSW. So we see each other once every three or four weeks.
So you and your husband both had corporate jobs, gave them up to become lunch van drivers, and are now national managers for the business. That’s amazing.
It’s a very unique story, but the company is unique. Nearmap becoming a part of Tasty and the way we use it is unique. We are all about our customer; our customer is number one. If we can’t get there on time to serve them, we fail. It’s very serious. It’s amazing how Nearmap has helped us.