For many Americans, starting the day without a cup of coffee can be daunting. In 2017, the average American drank 1.96 cups per day, pushing single-cup coffee retail sales to $3.88 billion. It doesn’t just take careful strategizing to sell coffee across channels and manage the unique pressures and trends of the food and beverage industry — merchants also need the right tools. For New Mexico Piñon Coffee, that meant finding the right mobile point-of-sale (mPOS) system.
New Mexico Piñon Coffee, based in Albuquerque, roasted more than 1 million pounds of coffee in 2017, and sells a range of products, both online and in grocery stores, throughout New Mexico. Products can also be bought at its two permanent locations and at temporary ones, such as festivals or other events. New Mexico Piñon Coffee’s variety of locations required it to test several mPOS solutions before it settled on Lavu, which fulfills its most important needs — if not its full mPOS wish list. In a recent conversation with PYMNTS, President Matt Bregar and Madison Rumbaugh, business development manager, explained how payment solution features help keep business — and coffee — flowing.
Swift staff set-up
One of the most important aspects for New Mexico Piñon Coffee’s mPOS was a simple and easy-to-use interface. Its new employees usually don’t have much experience with mPOS systems, so finding an intuitive system that new hires could quickly become comfortable with was a high priority — the longer it takes to learn a new system, the more time employees spend training instead of helping the operation run.
New hires are a common concern for the restaurant industry in the U.S., with the turnover rate hitting 72.9 percent in 2016, while the average turnover rate for the private sector at large is only 46.1 percent. This churn of workers is, in large part, due to seasonal staff. In 2015, 31 percent of the restaurant industry’s workforce were part-time, compared to 18 percent of the workforce as a whole. Additionally, 27 percent of restaurant employees in 2015 were students — that number is just 11 percent for the rest of the workforce.
“We probably have at least one new [employee] a month that we’re bringing in and training,” Bregar said.
Rumbaugh added that Lavu’s interface is user-friendly enough that a new hire could be ready to use it within minutes.
Sustaining service offline
New Mexico Piñon Coffee has learned that making sales run smoothly at events requires a key set of mPOS features, including offline payment capture. That need became clear one year when the company was selling at the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta. Hundreds of thousands of attendees were using the same internet on which New Mexico Piñon’s mPOS relied, which meant when the connectivity faltered, so did the company’s ability to accept credit and debit cards. Staff members were forced to turn to cash only, which was a real limitation, Rumbaugh said, as the company typically handles thousands of transactions within a few hours at the Fiesta.
“People just don’t carry cash,” she added. “It doesn’t even occur to me anymore that people won’t accept card.”
These days, credit card acceptance is crucial, and something customers take as a given, Rumbaugh claimed. Among its 25- to 45-year-old customer base, though, there hasn’t been much demand for mobile wallet acceptance, according to Bregar.
Bregar and Rumbaugh’s ideal mPOS also would be customizable based on the company’s different operational needs, such as changing menus based on location and event — something they currently manage through workarounds. To keep lines moving, New Mexico Piñon Coffee sells a slimmed down menu at pop-ups, and it tailors the items it offers based on each event. At the same time, the company wants an mPOS system that supports a wide range of menu options at the company’s brick-and-mortar locations.
Each of its brick-and-mortar cafes vary in regard to operations and revenue centers, as well. One of its cafes features a drive-through, for instance, while the other does not. Lavu assumes each store looks the same, but Bregar and Rumbaugh noted that they would like features that support more individualized management for each operation.
“Lavu wants every single location to be a mirror image of each other and have the exact same revenue centers and concepts behind it,” Bregar said. “We don’t utilize it like that.”
On top of that, the company is stuck selecting from the default security levels.
“We might like ... customizable security levels, so that we can block or allow access and really customize those solutions and put some controls in place,” Bregar said. “For instance, if they’re going to have security levels of one through four, we are at the mercy of Lavu’s defaults for what that security parameter looks like.”
In the food and beverage industry, larger chains and major hospitality operations are turning toward complex mPOS and POS systems that provide fine-grained levels of data, Bregar said. Casinos may use InfoGenesis systems, which can provide information as detailed as the exact amount of liquor being poured into a particular drink.
Smaller operations, meanwhile, don’t need data with the same level of nuance. These sorts of businesses are therefore favoring simpler solutions, such as Square or Lavu.
“Everyone is moving away from the center,” Bregar said.
Searching for the mPOS solution that will best fit their specific needs is crucial for any merchant, and those that look for a one-size-fits-all solution may be left wanting more from their mPOS. For companies like New Mexico Piñon Coffee, finding the right balance of features can be as important as finding the right balance of flavors.