Ken Burgin

Profitable Cafe

How Can Automation Make Your Cafe More Profitable?

You’ve seen the videos – hot, fresh pizza from a machine, a robotic arm that cooks perfect fries, or a cocktail robot with flashing lights. No people = no wages – sounds like a good move, but what will the customers think? If their priorities are consistent quality, speed and value, more automation can help you achieve that.

I talked with cafe owner Matt Lucas of the Coffee Pedaler cafes in Gundagai and Tumut NSW – both are high-volume operations catering to tourists and locals, using extensive automation. His typical customer is someone who wants an alternative to freeway fast food. They are prepared to pay a little extra but do not want long wait times.

Creating a paperless cafe

“From a technology perspective, we are a completely paperless cafe. We use Lightspeed for our POS, back-of-house kitchen production & stock take software. Orders are linked to Bump-It kitchen displays for each workstation and our main pass. This ties in with online and table ordering via Bopple, which reduces customer wait times. To ensure everything is accounted for correctly, we use DEXT invoice software and MYOB as our accounting package.”

“On the production side, we are most automated in our coffee setup. We use a Mahlkonig grinder for consistent dosing, a Puqpress for consistent tamping, the Slayer LP 3 group, and a Victoria Arduino Black Eagle 3 group for great tasting espresso and an Ubermilk for high quality, high volume milk delivery. When using milk alternatives, we have temperature gauges on all jugs to increase temperature consistency. We also use the Flow Coffee espresso diagnostics to help baristas remain focused on producing the best quality espresso possible within our recipe parameters. Also not to be discounted is the Google suite of products and Tripadvisor to help make marketing decisions of the business.”

Weighing up the return on investment

“With any new technology, we always look at the cost-benefit ratio is – I want to get a payback in less than a year on any equipment we invest in. With Ubermilk, it was easy to work out the cost-saving based on the increased capacity of the baristas plus the decreased milk usage and the reduced wait times, which leads to the likelihood of a second coffee purchase. But for technology like Flow Coffee analytics, it is a bit longer and perhaps a less tangible outcome. It is primarily about the quality of the product rather than speed or decreased wastage. Each new system is looked at for what benefits are likely to flow through to our business. “

We have KPIs for all areas of the business. Some reports are generated automatically, and others via spreadsheets. Sales are visible to managers and communicated to all staff. COGS & Wages are visible to managers only. Wait times based on production areas are regularly communicated to managers and the time of day sales – this is very helpful with staffing.”

What about robotic arms and robot systems?

“We are looking at some interesting robotic systems. How a robot interacts with human employees and possibly customers, along with other IT infrastructure and existing equipment installations, will be a game-changer in hospitality. I don’t believe the future of hospitality in Australia is Customer – Robot interaction but rather Robot – Food/Beverage production with humans providing the differentiating experience.

If you’re driving between Sydney and Melbourne, don’t forget to call into Matt’s cafes in Gundagai (just off the freeway) or Tumut near the snowfields – see one of the most innovative operators in action and enjoy his excellent coffee.

This is the full version of an article published in Hospitality Magazine.

🎧 Listen to an interview with Matt Lucas on the Hospo Reset podcast, talking about How a Regional Cafe Gets Big-City Sales with Modern Systems & Equipment.

🤚 Check the weekly discoveries on Hospo Reset – information & inspiration for restaurant, cafe & foodservice operators. Plus lots more articles on Increasing Sales, right here on the website.

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