When coffee meets technology

From the Arabian coffee houses of the 16th century, to the ubiquity of chains like Starbucks - the coffee business has been around a long time. But new technologies are continuing to change the industry.

In Australia's inner cities, there's no shortage of options for good coffee. So how do you stand out?

 For Saxon Wright, it’s through technology.

 "Coffee is such a hands-on, tactile, physical product, so tech doesn't seem like a natural fit. But we think there's real opportunity. Tech is influencing every industry so why should it be any different for coffee?"

 Saxon founded Pablo and Rusty's 13 years ago. The coffee roasting and cafe business is based in Sydney, but when they launched their Brisbane location, they decided to make it cashless.

Saxon Wright founded Pablo and Rusty's 13 years ago.
Saxon Wright founded Pablo and Rusty's 13 years ago.
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"We were running a cafe in another city and it's really hard to manage a remote business. So we thought, what are the problems we'd face? And cash is a headache. How do you manage theft, trips to the bank, where's the nearest bank? And we thought, gee, wouldn't it be good if we didn't have cash? And we were like, why not!"

But he says it wouldn’t have been possible without a few key tools, like the Pablo and Rusty's app, Frank Green smart cups, and the Albert terminal from Commonwealth Bank.

" a payment gateway service, typical tap and go type system, however, it can also hold software, so the software we use in this case is Kounta. It means it’s an all-in-one device from point of sale, payment gateway, receipt system. And the beauty is it's mobile."

The system can process payments made by Frank Green cups (which have a chip built inside) and through the Pablo and Rusty's app.

Saxon says it's been a boon for efficiency, with customers served quicker, and staff no longer required to count cash at the end of the day, or make trips to the bank for deposits. Even his insurance premiums are less. "Because we're not holding cash on site," he explains. There's another benefit too: with everything handled electronically, Saxon says the business is getting clearer insights into its customers' habits and demographics.

The challenge now is to replicate that model in their much busier flagship location in Sydney.

Pablo and Rusty's Sydney location sells around 2000 coffees a day.
Pablo and Rusty's Sydney location sells around 2000 coffees a day.
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The plan is to make it cashless later this year, but the biggest hurdle they face is getting internet that will be fast enough to process the sheer volume of payments that take place in the store.

It’s a problem that baffles – and annoys - Saxon, given his café is in the middle of Sydney – the country’s largest city.

"Everything’s dependent on internet I don’t know why it’s such a problem. It’s a government thing and they've had issues with the NBN… it’s a priority supposedly, but we're really yet to see the outcome of that for small business," he says. "It’s been a bit of a pain trying to find right supplier. Someone that could actually bring fiber to the node right to the building itself.”

 With around 2000 coffees sold a day here, Saxon says any increase in speed could make a big difference to revenue.

And he's keen for other business to benefit too. He advises his wholesale customers to consider going cashless, though he concedes there's some reluctance to the idea as many pay at least some of their wages under the table. 

"There will be a time when everyone demands to pay on credit card anyway, so don’t you want to be ahead of the curve? So we tell our customers don’t be too far behind. otherwise you'll be left behind."

 Not something Saxon plans to have happen to Pablo and Rusty's.

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