2016 cover stories: Kwik n Kool

By: Ruza Zivkusic-Aftasi


Toowoomba-based refrigerated couriers service Kwik ‘n’ Kool carries goods as if it was their own grandmother’s wedding cake. Its temperature-controlled trucks and refrigerated utilities deliver food in top condition to thousands of restaurants in the Darling Downs region of South Queensland

2016 cover stories: Kwik n Kool
Lynette Gray.

 

Husband and wife Trevor and Lynette Gray have been servicing the food industry for nearly 20 years.

With almost 400 customers, they take great pride in their family-run business and the exceptional service they offer to Toowoomba’s bustling culinary scene, where fantastic food and wine is a way of life and convenience has always been a priority for consumers.

The meal delivery industry is revolutionising the way food is transported, with Kwik ‘n’ Kool distributing food to markets, restaurants and cafes within tight time frames.

Eighty per cent of its business is based in Toowoomba – a town of almost 111,000 people. Located some 90 minutes from Brisbane, Kwik ‘n’ Kool also delivers to Ipswich, Lockyer Valley and southern Darling Downs.

It has five vehicles – down from 12 following the deadly Toowoomba-region floods five years ago. The Grays’ business was impacted as a result of flash flooding that hit several towns in the Lockyer Valley, with the number of drivers also reduced to five.

Lynette and Trevor never replaced those employees, but instead focused on doing more with less. Employing seven staff, the modest company has two Isuzu trucks and three utility vehicles.

"We’re only small but we pack a punch and we’re everywhere," Lynette Gray says. "What sets us apart is we’re the small people that love their product.

"I don’t care what business you’ve got these days, they’re damn hard.

"It doesn’t matter what it is; it doesn’t matter if you’ve got a cake shop or anything, business in itself is tough because you’ve got to be an expert in all those fields whether you like it or not, or know someone you can rely on.

"They say ‘what you can’t do, outsource it’, well, sometimes you don’t have the funds for that and you have to learn how to do it."

Learn the ropes she did, starting out delivering meat for one customer; the business then growing through word of mouth.

With transport in her blood, Gray got a helping hand from her father, David, who had been transporting grain and livestock up until three years ago.

"When my husband was made redundant from Westpac, we decided to go into general couriers for three years. The fellow he was working for prior to that had decided it’d be a good idea, instead of giving him 60 per cent commission, he’d turn it into 50 per cent," Gray says. "With that, we decided to part.

"We had previously been talking to people about moving refrigerated freight – this was before the safe food regulation where people were carrying meat with frozen chunks of ice in eskies, taking it to high-end restaurants in Brisbane.

"The butcher that was supplying that said to us, ‘If you go refrigerated, I can give you more work,’ and that was the whole market research on our business."

 

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Lynette and Trevor with son Tim.

 

Their company has evolved into streamlined systems allowing customers online visibility of freight with trucks being GPS tracked.

They moved to an online transport management system called iCOS Live three years ago, which allows visibility of fleet including access to driver locations, the time spent at a job, travelling time and driver behaviour.

"It’s absolutely brilliant," Gray says. "The drivers have access to everything on their tablets; it’s real-time track and trace, and we can see exactly what the vehicles have got and what’s left to do.

"It’s a 100 per cent paperless system and it’s increased our productivity by hours a day. "Implementing jobs and organising run used to take up to an hour and a half a day originally, whereas now it’s instant."

And it’s good for clients, too.

"Customers can enter their own jobs and see when the goods will be delivered, and their operations people can see when the job is done, allowing their accounting people to also access the information," she adds. "I can pull out my phone here and tell you exactly where the trucks are, what they’ve got on, and what temperature they’re running at."

Kwik ‘n’ Kool relies heavily on vehicle refrigerator reliability by using EROAD temperature probes which measure temperature in vehicles through tracking.

"We were the first refrigerated courier in the area for point-A-to-B deliveries," Gray says.

"Customers in Sydney fly in fish and meat – or they line-haul it up – and we meet the line-haul company such as Nolans, grab the pallets, and hand distribute them.

"We fall in the market where the restaurant owner doesn’t want the mass-produced run-of-the mill stuff, they want particular niche foods, so they will get some product from a smaller supplier and we’ll then bring that in for them.

"We do have an unwritten verbal agreement with certain shops and restaurants in the area that we don’t let any other restaurant or café know what product we’re bringing in for them."      

 

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Lynette has written about women who have broken through the barriers in male-dominated industries.

 

First-hand experience

What Gray has learnt from her father is to keep a close eye on costs.

"You look at the way he’d price a truck – not only would he price the new truck, but he’d also price the servicing, the tyres and everything," she says.

"You’d learn really quickly what sort of spanners he was asking or what you had to change, or simple things like parts falling off vehicles.

"What’s inspired me to stay within the industry is my awe for the vehicles; they’re moving parts, and I want to know how those moving parts work and what makes them do that.

"My grade one teacher says I was like a sponge, she could never fill me up with knowledge. That probably hasn’t changed."

Her approach to business comes down to getting things done – and that has seen the company win the 2008 Owner Manager of the Year award with the Australian Institute of Management (AIM).

Kwik ‘n’ Kool prides itself on its open relationship with customers, saying they are the most important thing to them.

"Our customers are more important to us, dare I say, than our employees because some of our customers have been with us since day one," Gray says. "We have a good relationship with them and it’s always been a business relationship – it’s been friends-on-a-business point of view but we’re not going to go play golf together or have dinner, it’s none of that.

"It’s about respecting their product and identifying the fact that their love and hard work has gone into that product and treat that product with the respect that it deserves.

"Being that important link between them and their customers, and keep looking after them and their product is what it’s all about."

 

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The majority of their 384 customers are small clients.

"We believe lots of little birdies in the bush are better than a big bird, because one big bird can be trouble," she adds.

The company does some 1000 deliveries each month and upgrades its trucks every five years, with the next lot not too far away. It operates six days a week and was established at the back of Gray’s home.

When selecting new drivers for the job, Gray prefers employing former bus drivers, saying they’re used to driving people on the streets.

"You teach them to treat every box like a wedding cake, it doesn’t matter what it is," she adds.

"The best drivers that we’ve had are the people that have been bus drivers because they’re used to driving people on the seats instead of ripping around the corner.

"I watched a driver drive around a corner in a small truck recently – no way would someone like that work for us."

 

 

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