Essential retail technologies for foodservice operators

customer self service order drink menu with tablet screen at cafe counter bar,seller coffee shop accept payment by lifestyle concept.Blank space for display of design

The Specialty Coffee Association (SCA) held its first virtual Coffee Retail Summit earlier this week (13 -14 April). The event focused on helping small coffee retailers with operational, branding/marketing, technology, and even real estate advice.

In the session, “Tech in Retail: The New Normal,” Luisa Castellanos, the co-founder & COO of Science on Call, which is basically an IT help desk for restaurants and retailers, outlined the technologies that are essential for coffee shops (any foodservice operation) today. These vital technologies are:

  • Internet/Wi-Fi
  • Point-of-Sale (POS)
  • Phones
  • Printers
  • Online Ordering
  • Delivery
  • Website/e-commerce

Regarding Internet/Wi-Fi, Castellanos stressed that having strong, stable Internet is a must. She noted that “as a company, we’re thinking about what the future of Wi-Fi in foodservice will be. There is a lot of opportunity to reinvent the wheel with Wi-Fi (e.g., having customers scan QR codes to receive coupons for freebies or discounts) to collect information to more accurately target customers.”

With POS cash register systems – a Point-of-Sale cash register system is a retail management system such as Toast, Square, TouchBistro, which helps vendors manage various aspects of their business – Castellanos said that so much has changed over the last few years and these systems can facilitate a lot of integration. Some of the basic features found in POS cash register systems include payment processing, printing of receipts and invoices, sales tracking and history, inventory tracking and management, payroll management, sales tax calculation, and loyalty programs.

Castellanos said that another reason strong Internet so important is because companies do not need actual phone lines, they can use voiceover systems through their Internet. But most importantly, “customers need to be able to reach you and will be frustrated if they can’t.”

Don’t forget about hardware like routers and printers, she emphasised. “You will need hardware in your stores — you need a hardwired connection, not just Wi-Fi because there will be issues at some point, and everything needs to sync together (both in-store and online ordering).

In terms of online ordering and delivery systems, foodservice operators “need to figure this out because it is not going away,” said Castellanos, adding, “some of our customers have experienced 400% growth in online ordering during the pandemic.” Customers need to be able to order the way they want to so she recommends having at least one direct online ordering/delivery system but that operators might want to have a third party (Uber Easts, Grub Hub, Doordash, etc.) as well. However, she warned that before using a third-party apps, and especially if signing up for multiple online delivery systems, make sure to know all the fees first because third-party systems are trying to make money any way they can so there are almost always hidden fees (many of these companies offered free registration during Covid but the fees came later). Castellanos also suggested that unless you are a “big coffee shop chain” that can really afford it, avoid customised online programs — there are a lot of online aggregated systems from which to choose.

Castellanos reminded attendees that having bad technology is expensive and will cost you more than just money. She posed the questions: What happens when tech fails? What will your customers say about you?

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