Category Archives: Office Coffee

Hotelympia: Guess Who Came For Coffee?

We’ve gone on and on about how good the coffee in your K-Cup® pack is, so forgive us while we go on and on about it just a little bit more.

Imagine, if you will, that you’re a celebrity chef and you’re at Hotelympia.

Here’s a thought to get you started: There’s not an MD manning his trade stand that wouldn’t give his eye-teeth to talk to you, to have you sample his wares. If, say, you fancied a coffee early doors, before the rush, there’s every brand, brewer, roaster and retailer in the known universe ready to welcome you like the returning hero and ply you with anything you fancy…

That’s why we’re rather pleased to inform you that none other than James Tanner, (that’s him in the picture), chose to kick-start his day with a Keurig® brewed K-Cup® pack on the Seymour Valentine stand. With us.

Not a bad advert for Keurig®‘s great-tasting coffee. We can see it now: ‘Coffee For A Tanner’. That should shift some product! (If you’re of a certain age! Ed.)

So that was nice.

(By the way, take a look at the web site for James’ ‘Tanner’s‘ restaurant in Plymouth. It looks like an absolutely amazing place).


Bob explains how the system works as a customer takes a taste test.

Whichever way you look at it, our first Hotelympia turned out to be a hectic experience. The show was busy, busy busy and we had a rookie in our team on the stand, to boot. (Not literally, of course).

Thea took to it like the proverbial duck to water, (you can read about our newest recruit here) so thankfully no worries at all on that score. The deluge of visitors on the stand was another matter!


The calm before the storm!

Bob Norton seemed pleased with the way things had gone. ‘We’ll potentially do it again because it’s just the right marketplace for Keurig®‘, he said. ‘We drew the crowds with our ‘free trial’ offer and a high proportion of those trials have been converted into contracts, so we can definitely chalk it up as a ‘success’.’




The Americans Amongst Us Are One Step Ahead!

When it comes to Keurig® systems, the North Americans amongst us seem to be one step ahead of the rest – and no wonder.

MG_0076-300x210You see, the Keurig® single cup brewing system was recognized as the “Brand of the Year” in the single serve coffee maker category in the 2014 Harris Poll EquiTrend® Equity Study. That meant that for the third consecutive year, the Keurig® system received the highest ranking in the coffee maker category based on consumers’ perceptions of familiarity, quality and purchase consideration.

‘Ten years ago, there were no Keurig® systems in homes. Just a decade later, we’ve begun to revolutionize the way consumers choose, brew and enjoy hot beverages at home,’ said John Whoriskey, President of US Sales and Marketing for Keurig Green Mountain Inc. . ‘An amazing thing happens when someone is introduced to a Keurig®; they fall in love with our system and almost immediately share that love with their family and friends. Our loyal, passionate fans are what make us the brand that we are today, and it’s because of them that we are truly honored to be recognized once again as the coffee maker Brand of the Year.’7417277946_9241b1443a_z

So it’s not surprising that, amongst the first businesses to embrace our Free Trial Offer, there’s an American connection…

‘It’s like having a little piece of home’, said one delighted executive from America’s eastern sea-board, whose job has brought her to the UK. She immediately installed two Keurig® systems in her apartment. ‘I was amazed when I arrived in England to discover you’d never heard of Keurig® because where I come from, it seems like everybody uses them.’


Nicola Baldwin Biggs

Nicola confirmed that, where there’s a US link, Keurig® has needed no introduction. ‘ We’ve had a lot of enquiries from American companies or companies with senior American staff. Bare Essentials have taken two systems because their CEO knows the product from the states. Avenue Capital Group were in a similar situation and so the brewers went in without any question of a trial’, she said.

We’re hoping to bring you updates from some of our Keurig® early-adopters in the next issue of ‘Vending For FM’s. Meanwhile, here’s a sneak preview: just a couple of the businesses that have been unpacking their brewers over the past few weeks…

  • A well-known NHS hospital took a brewer on trial and ordered a second one within a week of receiving the first.
  • A multi-national also took two machines.They use them in their meeting rooms and they’re impressed by how portable the systems are and how easily they can be moved from room to room.

*If you haven’t ordered your Keurig® System Free Trial, please click here to leave your details (just type ‘Keurig’ in the ‘message’ box, please).

Or if you prefer, give us a bell on 08454 133 033

Or e-mail us:


It’s Here! The Hot Chocolate K-Cup® Pack You’ve Been Waiting For!

When was the last time you had a ‘how on earth do they do that?’ moment?


Available NOW! so what are you waiting for?

Remember the widget that turned flattish beer into foaming ale? How about oven chips? The England football team in Brazil… (How on earth did they do that?)

Well, here’s your next HOEDTDT? moment, waiting to happen. To say that the reaction in the office when our first shipment arrived was ‘amazement’ might be pushing it a bit, but all you do is drop the Cafe Express Hot Chocolate K-Cup® pack into your Keurig® system, hit the flashing blue light and seconds later, you’re in chocolate heaven.

Mine’s a hot chocolate, please!

Mine’s a hot chocolate, please!

Don’t add milk, or sugar, just drink it as it comes fresh from your Keurig®.

I like mine brewed on the ‘small’ setting, – that’s it in the picture, I’m drinking it as I write… :-))

In retrospect, ‘amazement’ really was the reaction. It didn’t seem possible that so much milky chocolatey silkiness could be crammed into one tiny K-Cup® pack.

You really do have to try it to believe it.

Meanwhile, to put you in the mood, here’s some of our favourite chocolatey quotations!


‘Chocolate, men, coffee – some things are better rich.’ (Anon.)

Can’t argue with that now, can you?


‘There are four basic food groups, milk chocolate, dark chocolate, white chocolate, and chocolate truffles.’ (Anon.)

This is nearly true; shame Mr Anon neglected to mention ‘cake’.


‘Chemically speaking, chocolate really is the world’s perfect food.’ (Michael Levine)

Keep this quote in your locker. You never know when it might come in handy.

Chocolate causes certain endocrine glands to secrete hormones that affect your feelings and behavior by making you happy. Therefore, it counteracts depression, in turn reducing the stress of depression. Your stress-free life helps you maintain a youthful disposition, both physically and mentally. So, consume lots of chocolate!’ (Elaine Sherman)

I discovered this one too late – you may still have time.


‘…the taste of chocolate is a sensual pleasure in itself, existing in the same world as sex… For myself, I can enjoy the wicked pleasure of chocolate…entirely by myself. Furtiveness makes it better.’ (Dr. Ruth)

Ooh! Matron!


‘There isn’t always sex, but there is always chocolate.’ (Michael Lipsey)

Help us to help you: there will always be chocolate ONLY if you order it. And finally, a poke in the proverbial eye…


‘Strength is the capacity to break a chocolate bar into four pieces with your bare hands — and then eat just one of the pieces.’ (Judith Viorst)


Don’t delay! Order chocolate today!




Keurig®: When Only The Best Will Do…

Case Study: Delegate Coffee Service, The Quebec Government Office in London, 59 Pall Mall


You could hardly imagine a more historic locale.

Pall Mall, London; across the road from our destination is St. James’s Palace. The palace – London’s oldest – was commissioned by Henry VIII on the site of a former leper hospital dedicated to St. James the Less, from which the palace and its nearby park take their names.

Oath of allegiance? Bob Norton, not tired, but flagging!

Oath of allegiance? Bob Norton, not tired, but flagging!

St. James’s Palace was constructed between 1531 and 1536. Two of Henry VIII’s children died here; Elizabeth I was said to have spent the night here while waiting for the Spanish Armada to sail up the channel. Charles I slept rather less soundly— here was his final resting place prior to his execution… Oliver Cromwell then took over the palace and turned it into barracks, before Charles II reclaimed the site and then laid out St James’s Park.

And yet, amidst this quintessentially British scene, a foreign flag flies. You may not recognise it: this is the flag of the predominantly French speaking Canadian province of Quebec and it flutters proudly above its London ‘embassy’.

As the second largest province of Canada by area, and its most populous, the question of independence for Quebec has been raised repeatedly. Indeed, Parti Québécois held referendums in 1980 and again in 1995. Each time, the electorate voted against independence, on the latter occasion by a very, very narrow margin. In 2006, the House of Commons Of Canada passed a symbolic motion recognising the Québécois as a nation within a united Canada.DSC_1833-300x198

Be that as it may: what’s for sure is that visiting businessmen from Quebec avail themselves of the embassy’s facilities to conduct meeting with British customers. Here’s where they come, quite literally, to fly the flag.

Our first encounter with the Quebec Embassy was as delegates at a training session hosted by the people from Keurig Green Mountain, Inc.. We got talking, as you do, with Isobel, whose job is to coordinate meetings, many of which accommodate up to 50 people. Even as we enjoyed a freshly-brewed coffee from a K-Cup® pack, Isobel told us that providing hot drinks for visitors was something of a problem.

Do you want sugar with your Earl Grey?

Do you want sugar with your Earl Grey?

One thing led to another and soon we’d agreed that we would provide a coffee service to the embassy whenever it was needed, be it for half a dozen people or for a full house. That’s why we’re back today. We’ll use Keurig® system and K-Cup® packs. We’ve brought all the required equipment with us, we’ll provide the service and then leave, taking all our brewing paraphernalia with us..

As that annoying TV meerkat would doubtless say: ‘Simples!’

Frankly, that’s the beauty of the Keurig® system. The K140 brewer – the machine currently available for a free workplace trial, incidentally – is lightweight, it doesn’t need to be plumbed in. It’s compact, it’s smart and most important of all, it brews beverages of the highest quality.

With Keurig®, a coffee service is a delight to deliver and, what’s more, it’s a great opportunity for us to encourage people to experience Keurig® ‘hands on’. However, for the Québécois themselves, it’s a poignant reminder of home, where Keurig® systems are virtually ubiquitous.

Needless to say, in an Embassy, the credentials of a nation are at stake, every time a visitor crosses the threshold. Poor quality refreshments aren’t an option; but with Keurig®, we’ve proved that providing the best beverage experience needn’t involve expensive machines, expensive expertise or even a dedicated space.

Fill it up, plug it in, away you go; hassle free, idiot proof, quality guaranteed. That’s the Keurig® system in a nutshell. Not for nothing do they say ‘real coffee, real choice, real easy’.

Don’t delay: sign up now, using our Contact page, for your ‘Free Trial’ and find out for yourself just what all the Keurig fuss is about. You’ll be pleased that you did…



A Big Cheer For Thea!


No sooner had Thea Cavanagh joined us as Sales Admin for Keurig® than she was ‘ thrown in at the deep end’ on our stand at Olympia.

Fortunately, since her arrival at Seymour Valentine, she’s been picking things up very quickly and fitting in really well. With Nic, Cevat and Bob already in place, we’re sure that Thea is the final piece in the jigsaw that creates ‘A Great Team.’

Hotelympia – ‘the deep end’.

Hotelympia – ‘the deep end’.

‘Thea approached us in rather a strange way’, Bob said. ‘On her own initiative, she sent an e-mail to ‘info@’, expressing an interest in becoming an apprentice. She was in the right age range for the apprenticeship scheme, but she had one weapon in her armoury that ruled her out – a university degree.’

Cevat looked at Thea’s CV nevertheless and said ‘we need to interview this girl.’ It turned out that Thea was a recent arrival from the north, whose boyfriend’s job move to Essex had forced her to put her own career on hold; until now…

‘Nic met her to conduct an interview and her evaluation was simple: she said ‘Thea’s the dream candidate for the role’’, Bob said. ‘How lucky were we there?!’

So, we gave a big cheer for Thea, (so to speak).

We’re already availing ourselves of Thea’s specialist skills by having her re-brand our presentations and write any copy we might need, as well as getting her out of the office to meet our customers and get a feel for the job we do.

We hope you’ll join us in wishing Thea a long, happy and fruitful career at Seymour Valentine.

(Big) cheers!

We Partner The World’s Largest Purchaser of Fair Trade Coffee

Pictured: Gérard Geoffrion; President, International Business Development, GMCR, and Cevat Riza sign on the dotted line…

London, 14 February 2014: Seymour Valentine has signed a Master Distributor agreement for the UK with Green Mountain Coffee Roasters in respect of the North American company’s revolutionary Keurig® brewers – together with the pick of its unparalleled beverage portfolio of more than 300 High Street brands.

Seymour Valentine’s colleagues in the Wise Vending Group have signed distributor agreements, ensuring that Keurig® products will be available nationally.

The deals were sealed at the iconic Arts Club in Mayfair and although the launch has been set for 14 February, the first orders have been placed and the first deals have been done: Duff & Phelps, a leading global financial advisory and investment banking firm, which is based in The Shard and is a client of Seymour Valentine, will become the first UK corporate adopter of the Keurig® system.

The creation of a UK hub for the best selling KCupTM and Keurig® Brewer was a protracted process; in fact Seymour Valentine MD Cevat Riza first mooted the idea some 10 years ago and he is ‘thrilled that this exciting deal has now been concluded.’

‘We’re delighted that the company has decided to partner with Wise Group to bring the benefits of this unique beverage system to UK users.’ Cevat Riza

‘As a leader in specialty coffee and single serve beverages with its innovative Keurig® brewing technology, Green Mountain Coffee Roasters is recognized for its award-winning coffees, Keurig® Brewing systems, and socially responsible business practices’, Cevat said. ‘GMCR supports local and global communities by investing in sustainably grown coffee and allocating a portion of its pre-tax profits to socially and environmentally responsible initiatives. We’re delighted that the company has decided to partner with Wise Group to bring the benefits of this unique beverage system to UK users.’

As the leading single serve brewer brand in North America, Keurig® has gained a strong and passionate following among consumers that enabled the company to open its first retail Keurig® store, in Burlington, Massachusetts, in November 2013.

‘2014 will be an exciting year for all of us as we are preparing for what will be an exciting partnership’, said Gérard Geoffrion; President, International Business Development, GMCR. ‘Much has happened to get Keurig UK ready for this launch: we have created our legal entity, our supply chain support networks, information technology and trade marketing tools, UK digital/Web, and our UK office. We are delighted to have concluded a distribution agreement with Seymour Valentine and we’re anticipating a successful future for Keurig® in the UK.’




Someday, all vending-at-work will be this way…

Seymour Valentine has demonstrated how the B&I refreshment market is changing by appointing the UK’s first ‘vending barista’.


Meet André Boti Bernardo, (pictured), a Brazilian born and bred who, having spent several years as a barista in Italy, joined Seymour Valentine in August 2013. He’s based on the premises of a client in London’s trendy West End, whose workforce of 430 people is employed in the online gaming industry. His remit is simple: ‘keep the customers satisfied’.

André is surely a forerunner of things to come in the vending industry; some day, every B&I site will employ a vending barista of its own. Frankly, the man is a coffee fanatic, which is hardly surprising, given his background. So what’s he doing working in an office, when you’d expect his natural habitat to be in an artisan coffee shop?

Like a swan? Elegant above the surface, efficient beneath

Like a swan? Elegant above the surface, efficient beneath

‘It’s because I love it here’, he says with a smile. ‘I have a large customer base that relies on me to make sure their coffee is always perfect.’ The attributes and attitudes of a barista are more relevant in this busy environment than those of a traditional vending operator: André describes his daily routine. ‘It’s all about having a keen eye for detail’, he says. ‘This is a twenty-four seven site, so the first thing I do when I arrive in the morning is check that the machines are all running smoothly and that there have been no problems during the night. Next, I collect the fresh milk, which is delivered every day, and then I set about cleaning the machines.’

Cleanliness is everything. ‘It doesn’t matter if the machine you’re using is an automatic or a traditional model’, André says, ‘if it’s not perfectly clean, you’ll never get great tasting coffee.’ The basics having been achieved, his keen eye for detail comes into its own. ‘The coffee beans must always be fresh’, he says, ‘and the grinders have to be set carefully, to take account of the ambient conditions.’

The prefect espresso – note the double sided glass.

The prefect espresso – note the double sided glass.

The site has three TopBrewer units installed and each has two grinders: one set to grind beans to a fine consistency capable of delivering the perfect espresso, the other delivering a coarser product that’s ideal for cafetières.

The beautiful, patented stainless steel tap is designed to be built into any tabletop. The simplicity of TopBrewer, designed in Denmark by Scanomat, fits elegantly into any surroundings, allowing customers to focus on the quality of the coffee, rather than the loook of the machine.. The TopBrewer brews a perfect cup of fresh-bean coffee – every time.

One patented part of the system is ‘the smallest milk foamer in the world’. The foamer is installed at the very tip of the coffee tap. Fresh milk is heated ‘on demand’ and foamed to the correct texture. The Scanomatic milk clean system of TopBrewer cleans all hoses with water after each cup. What’s more, TopBrewer provides chilled drinking water, cold milk, hot water for tea and even steam.

You can see a video of TopBrewer in action by clicking here.

‘Top Brewer is a great coffee system and it’s perfect for locations such as this one’, Andre says. ‘The workforce is made up largely of young people who are all very tech-savvy and who are all coffee aficionados. They’re very demanding in terms of taste and consistency so the coffee has to be top-quality; but because of their jobs, the noise generated by a conventional bean-to-cup or traditional machines wouldn’t be acceptable. The great thing about the Top Brewer system is that all the ‘working parts’ are out of sight in a cupboard so the operation is almost silent and all the customer sees is the tap, the swan neck and the iPad, which is used for ordering.’

Bob, Andre and Cevat

Bob, Andre and Cevat

Out of site, the freshly-ground coffee is delivered into a container where, mimicking the role of the barista, it is tamped to perfection; before water is forced through the cake with 9 bars of pressure – in exactly the same way as a traditional machine operates.

Because the iPad is the nerve centre of the operation, customers can download an app to their smart phones or tablets, which enables them to connect to the Top Brewer via Bluetooth

Because the iPad is the nerve centre of the operation, customers can download an app to their smart phones or tablets, which enables them to connect to the Top Brewer via Bluetooth. This means that each customer can ‘save’ their custom drinks settings and order their beverages remotely. It’s a facility that’s been enthusiastically embraced: within days of the go-live, customers were publishing ‘selfies’ on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram and extolling the virtues of ‘great tasting, hi-tech coffee’ that they could control from their phones. ‘It really has captured the imagination’, André says. ‘Customers can create bespoke drinks by controlling coffee strength, sweetness and even foam content and they don’t have to programme their requirements every time they want a drink, because the app remembers them.’

The location has three TopBrewer units distributed across three floors, with complementary cold drinks and snacks machines to complete the refreshment offer.

Employees here are working for a company that’s been voted in the country’s ‘Top 50 firms to work for’ and not surprisingly, staff well-being is at the top of this client’s business agenda. Coffee – served in specially sourced, stylish double walled glass cups imported from Denmark – is on free vend, and so are other items, such as fresh fruit and Innocent Smoothies. From January 2014, snacks will be on free-vend, too. ‘Twenty-five percent of all snacks dispensed on site are classified as healthy’, André says.

iPad ordering system

iPad ordering system

Apart from his knowledge of coffee, André has other traits that distinguish him from your average on-site vending operator, most notably his ability to interact with the diverse workforce in any of four languages. ‘I speak Portugese, Spanish, Italian and English’, he says, ‘and I’ve decided that I ought to learn Russian next – there are a lot of them around here!’

His friendly relationship with his customers is obvious. As you watch him at work, people come to say ‘hello’, shake his hand, high-five him and pass the time of day in their native language. He’s without doubt a popular addition to the working environment – and not just because his coffee is perfect!

It’s an eye-opener to witness what Seymour Valentine has achieved by re-writing the spec for the role of on-site operator. When you witness André in action, you can’t help but think, ‘someday, all vending at work will be this way.’


*Like the look of TopBrewer? Wait ’til you taste the coffee! Contact us!

What’s Your Definition of ‘Exceptional Service’?

Meet Seymour Valentine customer Danny Lemon, (pictured), a man who won’t entertain second best…


Look at any vending company’s web site and the chances are that you’ll be met with a claim that ‘exceptional service’ is at the heart of the firm’s business offer.

What you get depends upon how you define ‘exceptional service’; ‘you pays your money, you takes your choice’. However, one of our customers has the most demanding standards imaginable when it comes to the services he and his team deliver to their clients – and he expects each and every one of his suppliers to share the same ethos.

That’s why we were delighted when – and not for the first time – Danny Lemon invited us to provide vending services, on this occasion for the tradespeople working under his auspices at The London Bridge Quarter.

Danny – on reflection!

Danny – on reflection!

It’s fitting that, throughout an estate based in and around one of Europe’s highest buildings, the highest standards are demanded. Danny is Head of Corporate Services and, in a building that almost has a floor for every week of the year, his is a tough task.

‘We run the building and the surroundings as if it were a hotel’, Danny told us, ‘and when we appoint service suppliers, our main criterion is service, rather than cost.’

As the estate’s chosen supplier of vending and coffee services, we are also recommended to incoming tenants as they seek to fulfil their individual requirements. It’s not mandatory that they do business with us, but as Danny says, ‘I vet suppliers so that my clients don’t have to. Prior to them taking up residence, I’ll have a conversation with them and say, ‘come and talk to me when you want to appoint a florist, or a post-room service, or a coffee provider’, and by and large, that’s what happens.’

Danny’s opinion counts for a great deal with his clients, and thank goodness it does: the reality of hundreds of different service providers coming and going, day and night, would be an unthinkable logistical nightmare. Rather than have a couple of dozen window cleaning firms, for instance, Danny prefers to have one; rather than have a couple of dozen refreshment service providers, Danny prefers to have Seymour Valentine. ‘I’ve known Seymour Valentine for many years’, he said, ‘and they understand that I’ll never accept second best. I deal directly with Cevat (Riza, MD) and Bob (Norton, Operations Director) because they have the authority to make things happen when they need to happen and that’s the way I like it.’

In-situ vending!

In-situ vending!

When he says he aims to run services ‘in the same way that a hotel does’, Danny isn’t thinking of any old hotel. On the contrary, he spent twenty years or so at Claridge’s, London’s traditional bastion of style and elegance. He followed that with fifteen years working front-of-house for the Roux brothers. To paraphrase Greg Wallace, Michel Roux’s BBC Masterchef colleague, ‘service delivery doesn’t get any tougher than that.’

We’re chatting in a smart café on the 32nd floor, and to make his point, Danny lists the service providers that have helped to form my impressions as a first-time visitor to the building. ‘To get to this table, before your coffee is delivered, you’ve already been served by more than half-a-dozen companies’, he says. ‘First, there’s the security outside the building. We’d expect you to be shown every courtesy. Then, there’s the florist: you will have noticed that the plants inside and outside the building are all in pristine condition. The windows have to sparkle, too. Then there’s the internal security, they’ll help you to get into the building. For instance, you’re pulling a large case with you, so I’d expect security to have opened a side door for you, rather than see you struggle through the revolving doors.’ (They did). ‘Then, you have to be greet in an appropriate way by highly professional receptions staff – and you won’t be asked to wear any badges or tags. Next, the lifts have to be working properly and finally; the engineering department has to make sure that all the lights are working as they should be. I don’t expect to encounter an electric bulb or strip light that’s blown. Everything has to be spot on, or the customer won’t come back.

Time to relax!

Time to relax!

‘My goal is to keep service as good – and as invisible – as it is at Claridge’s, but at Claridge’s, everybody works for Claridge’s’, Danny continued. ‘Here, all the services are out-sourced, but each of our service partners is required to reflect our corporate image, from the quality of their work, to the way they dress. We don’t allow any individual branding. Everybody wears the London Bridge Quarter logo. It takes time to have every company and individual achieve our standards, but the effort is worth it.’

In the scheme of things in the London Bridge Quarter, Seymour Valentine is a tiny cog in the engine of service delivery; but nevertheless, we’re a vital one when it comes to creating the sense of camaraderie that Danny seeks to instil amongst his disparate suppliers.

We come into our own in The Welfare Room, a communal space in which individuals from every on-site contractor can take a break, whilst remaining on call. ‘They all share same room to eat and drink together’ Danny says, ‘and vending is important in there. There’s always tea and coffee’, (on free vend) ‘and there’s an internal telephone to alert people when they’re urgently required. Without the Welfare Room, people would be all over the place!’

It’s a comfortable space, equipped with sofas as well as tables and chairs, and the on-tap wi-fi allows staff to keep in touch with their offices. It’s become a popular venue and the number of workers on-site means that it’s always busy.

What’s more, Danny’s philosophy of recommending trusted suppliers is bearing fruit: on his say-so, we’ve agreed a contract recently with one incoming tenant and we’re working on deals with other businesses that should conclude soon.

That’s the thing about Danny Lemon that sets him apart. When he promises ‘exceptional service’, people tend to believe him. After all, he knows what he’s talking about.

* Contact us if you, too, would enjoy exceptional service from Seymour Valentine

The Kids Are Alright!

PICTURED: L-R: Kaydee-Ann Atkinson, Simon Allen and Abby Ravenhurst


Maybe we took a chance by taking on apprentices – but our MD Cevat Riza is very pleased that we did…


In July to September 2013, 965,000 young people aged 16-24 were unemployed, a similar level to the previous year. That’s 21.0%, or just a tad over 1 in 5 youngsters currently out of work.

It’s an alarming statistic.

The situation was almost as bad when Cevat was growing up in South East London during the 60’s and 70’s. Just like the kids of today, he found that getting on the jobs ladder was tough going. Thirty-odd years later, Cevat is a successful businessman; the owner one of the UK’s leading vending operators – that’s us! – and of a couple of über trendy bars, Zebrano’s, in London’s bustling West End.

‘I didn’t have much going for me in terms of educational qualifications’, Cevat admits, ‘but I was a grafter. I was prepared to work hard, but it was very frustrating, time after time, to miss out because I didn’t have the right certificates.’

Group hug: with Operations Director, Bob Norton

Group hug: with Operations Director, Bob Norton

That’s why he’s willing to look beyond a youngster’s qualifications, hoping to see something of himself in a job applicant. Consequently, eighteen months ago, we embarked upon an apprenticeship programme, the success of which has vindicated Cevat’s belief that, amidst the youth of today, there is ‘tremendous potential’ just waiting to be realised…

‘Our latest trainees are Kaydee-Ann Atkinson and Robert Davis’, he says. ‘They started their course in September and they’ll be with us for twelve months. Robert is working in accounts and he’s on a day release course at a local college, taking a two -year accounting course. Kaydee-Ann’s working as part of the operations team and is taking incoming calls and helping process warehouse orders. She’s working with an outside organisation online to get a Business Administration certificate. We’re hoping we can replicate with these two the success we’ve had in our previous experiences.’

Kaydee-Ann was ‘as quiet as a mouse’ on arrival, but she’s matured into her role and, as the first point of contact with customers with urgent issues, she’s become a confident model of tact and diplomacy. ‘I’m involved in all the installations’, she said, ‘so it can be a pretty stressful time for customers.’

‘Success’ is not a word that Cevat uses glibly: indeed, four of the original trainees went on to become valued, full-time members of staff. No wonder he talks about them with pride… ‘Abby Ravenhurst looks after our help desk’, he begins, ‘Simon Allen has just been promoted to the role of Sales Administrator and Estelle worked for us in finance before she accepted a more senior post in accounting. Leila worked in general admin and she’s also left us now to move up the career ladder.’

The fact that they’ve been given a chance to shine here at Seymour Valentine is much appreciated by all the apprentices. They each display commendable loyalty to their employer and a sense of kinship with each other. ‘It’s really hard to get a job if you’ve got no experience’, Abby says, ‘and even though I’d done an NVQ when I was 16, it made sense for me to do another one, because I thought with that, together with work experience, I could take it one step further.’ Abby’s plan is coming together: she’s now been at Seymour Valentine for some two-and-a-half years, and has become something of an expert in respect of the Vendman software that is at the core of the company’s operation.

Simon applied for a job; but he was offered the apprenticeship route and that appealed to him, as it gave him the chance to add a formal qualification to his CV. ‘The educational part of it worked out well for me’, he said; ‘it gave me a good grounding for the job I’m doing now.’ In his new role as Sales Administrator, Simon oversees the paperwork for each customer – but he’s also a man with a flair for design; he’s created the templates for Seymour Valentine’s new business proposals. ‘I went through our existing sales materials and worked on the layout and the graphics to make it easier for people to create modular proposals’, he says. ‘I just learned on the job.’ It’s a contribution that has paid dividends for the company and it will help Simon to achieve his next objective: to become one of Seymour Valentine’s Field Sales people.

‘I’m proud of them all’, Cevat says, ‘and I’m really pleased that we were able to give them a leg-up, when so many other companies weren’t interested in them. They took their chance and they proved their worth.’

Our initiative alone won’t make so much of a dent in the travesty that is youth unemployment – but if more businesses were to follow the company’s lead, it might be a different story…