Colin Lear’s Tasty Fresh: From One Shop and a Phone Booth to a 140+ Van Empire

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Colin Lear’s Tasty Fresh lunch van business has come a long way from his original operation 39 years ago in the Melbourne eastern suburb of Blackburn.

Starting out with just one lunch van and a suburban shop which he used as a commercial kitchen – “because it was the early days with not a lot of money, I used the phone booth outside for my business calls,” Colin remembers – Tasty Fresh has grown into a fleet of more than 140 vans delivering fresh, delicious, hand made and hand delivered food to more than 280,000 customers across Australian workplaces daily.

Looking back on his success, Colin acknowledges that initially there was no vision other than “this is a way I can earn a quid,” as he puts it. “I don’t think there’s many people who go into business with a grand plan, and I certainly didn’t – although I did think there was an opportunity to end up with a whole fleet of these vans, and that’s come true.”

Part of what makes Tasty Fresh’s operation unique is the distinctive design and appearance of its vans, in which Colin invested considerable time and money to get just right. “The traditional approach has always been a cab chassis with a catering box on the back,” he explains. “We couldn’t find a satisfactory cab chassis so we had to look at alternatives, and we realised the Toyota Hiace van was the perfect size. So we decided to convert a Hiace van from the inside out into what we needed, and that’s given us a distinctive look. When customers see our vans they recognise us right away.”

The extensive range of lunch meals made fresh daily at Tasty Fresh’s Ferntree Gully premises includes classic sandwiches and rolls, salads and wraps – along with more recent innovations such as rice paper rolls and sushi packs. Ingham’s products feature extensively on the menu – Tasty Fresh serves up a pair of Country Crisp Chicken Strips in a grab and go pack, and Devil Chicken Breasts are a massive seller. “Lots of customers like to buy a Devil Chicken Breast and our garlic bread and put them together for lunch,” Colin tells us, “and we also use Ingham’s Flame Grilled Chicken Breasts in a number of different products from sandwiches and wraps to hot rolls.”

While food trends and tastes have changed over the past four decades, the foundation of Tasty Fresh’s success has stayed the same – good food, hand made and hand delivered daily. “That’s our core principle, and in this industry it’s not common,” Colin says. “Over the years lunch vans haven’t been considered an ideal way to purchase grab and go food, but we’ve stuck to our guns and our customers know they can trust us to provide a good quality, fresh daily product.”

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