Special Feature
Part of a ZDNet Special Feature: Small business: going big on mobility

Orea Café's mobility blend jolts sales figures

From order-taking via Facebook and Twitter to Bitcoin payments, Orea Cafe is an example of a millennial business using mobility to improve customer engagement and drive sales.

When co-owners Samantha Saunders and Brittany Vass bought Brisbane CBD-based Orea Cafe in September last year their first decision was to replace the old manual cash register with a cloud based point-of-sale system consisting of an iPad and the Vend app. 

"Over the ensuing six months we succeeded in doubling the daily take of the cafe. Yes, doubling! And it continues to grow," said Saunders.

"The single biggest factor in achieving that was our move to Vend. Sure, it's simple to use, but even more importantly it gives us the sales and product data that we use to grow the business."

Orea Cafe owners Brittany Vass (left) and Samantha Saunders

Saunders says the move to a cloud based POS system meant the business had a platform they could easily build on. The flexible set-up even supports Bitcoin payments.

"The flexibility has allowed us to go in directions we weren't even expecting. Our barista just picks "Cash, Card or Bitcoin" from the Vend screen and the customer pays however they'd like."

Orea Cafe’s next development was to make ordering easier and more convenient by allowing customers on the move to Tweet, Facebook or text message orders in advance and then come in and collect. They examined existing apps but none were suitable so they commissioned their own tailored app.

"CBD coffee is a cut-throat business with baristas on every corner. We need loyal repeat customers to survive. Serving great coffee isn't enough, it also needs to be quick and convenient. Now they text or tweet in an order while they're walking to us and their coffee is ready when they arrive. 

"But it is how we did it that sets us apart. Our customers don't use a special app. They just use the standard text, FB or Twitter service that they already know. All the smarts are on our side, and there's no middle-man service provider pushing out ads or taking a cut. It is simple and easy for our customers and that's why they love it."

The café owners also installed a touchscreen kitchen display configured to run with the Vend POS to help fill the orders with greater efficiency.

"It is a really simple concept for cafes, but it makes our own workflow click along faster and with fewer mistakes," Saunders said.

"We're small, just one or two staff, and so it can get hectic. With the kitchen display we can take the orders and payments for all queued customers, then move over and prepare each order from the touch screen. There's no written notes slid back on clothes pegs. It is so much more efficient than shuffling between each task and, once their order is placed, the customers can't walk off to our competitors."

Saunders adds that the business solicited customer ideas while building the POS and associated feature set.

"Input from our supportive customers really guided how it was designed."

Orea Cafe is now looking at expanding with the purchase of mobile coffee van to augment the bricks and mortar store.

"It would be very easy to do that with our cloud based POS and our accounting," says Saunders, "because we can add another store, or van, with just a few clicks."