In an economy characterized by rapid and unexpected twists and turns, a business opportunity missed is often lost forever. That's a reality Larry Walter, owner and COO of Chicagoland's Tasty Catering, faces on a daily basis. But thanks to his growing fleet of Mercedes-Benz Sprinters, he doesn't miss any.

Tasty Catering has adopted an open-book management system that assigns individual responsibility for every single line item on a continuous basis. "We don't wait 15 days for a P&L; we know instantly what's going on in every aspect of our business and can make adjustments on the fly," Walter says. "The Sprinters help immensely. They are our top-of-the-line vehicles. Our logistics director routes the Sprinters out first, and everyone loves to drive them."

Customers slow to spend

The economy's been improving of late, but not in a straight line. Many companies have cash on hand but often wait to pull the trigger on expenditures until the last possible moment. For Tasty Catering, that means being able to gear up instantly or risk losing an engagement—and possibly a repeat customer. The company's three Mercedes-Benz Sprinter Model 2500 High Roof Crew Vans with 144-inch wheelbases are among its most valuable tools in meeting that challenge.

A case in point is the call Tasty Catering got from a good customer at 9:30 one morning last spring. "She said she needed a picnic for 150 guests," Walter recalls. "They'd just won a safety award, and headquarters wanted to treat them to an impromptu celebration—at 3:30 that afternoon." With just six hours to execute, the logistics director quickly located staff; confirmed all needed equipment, food, and supplies were on hand; then checked the fleet. All its large box trucks were out, and no last-minute rentals were available.

$3K in sales, and a customer saved

"The solution was simple," Walter says. "Van 18—our 2011 Mercedes-Benz Sprinter outfitted with a Class V hitch and an internal ramp—was slated for a box lunch order that afternoon. The logistics director quickly switched that order and driver to a standard van, freeing up Van 18 for the picnic." The customized Tasty Catering Sprinter easily accommodated all the equipment, supplies, and personnel, including a large, towable grill. Everything was loaded up about noon, the crew compartment was filled shortly after that, and Van 18 arrived at the site with plenty of time to set up for the event.

Tasty Catering's Sprinters provide the raw muscle and cargo capacity of a box truck in a smaller-footprint vehicle that is more versatile, flexible, and fuel-efficient. "Had we not had the Sprinters in our fleet, we would not have been able to service our customer, and we would have lost $3,000 in sales that day," Walter says. "This is a vehicle that works not just as hard as we do, but as creatively as well."

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