Cashless options could be seen as a preferable solution to currency mechanisms.
CASHLESS READERS OFFER AN OPTION
Coffee Serv’s Kirshner said cashless readers might have a bigger role in OCS than currency acceptors. He has heard about cashless systems, and he thinks that in some accounts where employees carry payment cards, it might make sense.
Kirshner is aware that credit and debit cards are being used by consumers for smaller transactions. He was one of several operators interviewed who thinks he would be more likely to use a cashless device on a brewer than a currency acceptor.
As single-cup has become better established in recent years, some operators think options that give the location a way to keep the machine and reduce costs is important.
“You need solutions like this as an option,” said Barry Bleahen, associate vice president of marketing for Aramark Refreshment Services Inc., which has used some of the cashless single-cup units. “There is certainly a place for it.” The system that Aramark has used is supported by a Web-based network that also gives the operator real-time access to product sales information in the machine.
TELEMETRY: REAL TIME ACCESS TO SALES INFORMATION
“We have access to the sales going through the equipment via the payment network, not necessarily the inventory in the equipment, given that we do not know when the client fills it with product/beans/cocoa,” Bleahen said. “It does not perform like a vending machine, which is a closed system that only the operator accesses.”
Chris Stave, executive director at the Vend Marketing Institute, a national network of independent vending operators, said it might make sense to “slave” a single-cup brewer off of a vending machine. This way, the operator could offer a cup of coffee as part of a promotion to a customer who purchases a snack. In such a scenario, it would not be necessary to have a separate card reader for the single-cup machine.
Stave said cashless technology still has to become more affordable for the refreshment services industry to embrace it. “At some time, it will make sense to put card readers on single-cup machines,” he said.
Brian Bradley, senior vice president of operations at S & D Coffee Inc., the Concord, N.C.-based roaster that is also an OCS operator, has examined payment mechanisms over the years but is reluctant to use them. He is aware of the cashless readers being introduced, and he is watching with interest.
INVENTORY TRACKING IMPORTANT FOR SOME
The efficient servicing of equipment is one of the benefits of remote monitoring that has already been used in vending. In the OCS business, the need to track inventory at the machine level has another purpose: verifying the specific product in the machine. OCS operators, unlike their vending brethren, rely on the location to fill the machine with product. Hence, OCS operators have always been vulnerable to location personnel filling the hopper with products purchased elsewhere.
In the OCS universe, remote monitoring of machine activity can provide a “policing” function.
While not all OCS operators believe that unauthorized product use is a big problem, remote monitoring offers other benefits as well.
Depending on the technology used, the data can provide item-level consumption data. The need for such data has not been seen as critical in OCS since coffee brewers have historically carried a small number of selections in comparison to vending machines.
However, the proliferation of multi-selection machines has changed this in recent years. With 12 selections available in many single-cup brewers, the most profitable mix can present a challenge for operators, especially as new blends are introduced.
“It gets us closer to consumer preferences,” said Aramark’s Bleahen. “That kind of information is invaluable.”
MANUFACTURERS ADAPT CASHLESS CAPABILITY
A handful of OCS brewer manufacturers have incorporated radio frequency identification (RFID) into their payment mechanisms, some of which have been demonstrated at vending and OCS trade shows. RFID provides a network for authorizing credit and debit purchases and for transmitting data from the machine to a data collection device.