People will go out of their way to refill their car at a petrol station that has their favorite coffee. Sometimes they’ll even visit just for the coffee, especially in times of pandemic when many coffee shops are shut. Plus, serving coffee at gas stations can boost ancillary sales, increasing total turnover up to two times.
This coffee-petrol relationship isn’t going anywhere. In fact, it will likely get stronger – major oil firms are betting big that coffee and snack sales in petrol stations will rise drastically. Why? Because today’s petrol stations will also serve as tomorrow’s electric car charging stations. With an expected charging time of no less than 10 minutes, people will have plenty of downtime to grab a coffee or a snack.
That said, these coffee stations do pose challenges for operators. Maintaining high-quality drinks at all times is essential. Any downtime can ruin someone’s day. Meeting demand and optimizing for it can be difficult. Plus, there are always people trying to game the system by claiming at the register that they’ve selected a cheaper drink than they actually have.
To deal with these challenges, operators use telemetry systems such as Vendon’s IoT solutions, which enable accountability, data-based consumption insights, real-time time notifications about machine status, and much more. In this article, we’ll explore how exactly IoT helps operators maximize revenue from their coffee tabletop and self-service machines in petrol stations.
Quality above all
Since the quality of coffee can be a deciding factor in choosing a petrol station, ensuring drink quality and consistency is the top priority for everyone involved. Using high-quality beans is essential, but what else can operators do to guarantee satisfied customers?
A. Maintain ideal milk and water temperatures
Milk and water temperatures directly affect drink quality, and, hence, the customer experience. Prior to the drink being made, the milk must be refrigerated and its temperature should never go above a certain threshold. But without monitoring tools in place, the operator might be in the dark about what goes on with the machine when they’re not nearby to inspect it.
With Vendon, operators can monitor temperatures remotely and react quickly if something goes awry, thereby avoiding customer dissatisfaction.
B. Ensure regular machine maintenance
Cleaning the coffee machine every day is essential for producing consistently good-quality drinks. For example, if the machine isn’t cleaned at the end of the day, some milk remains in the pipes overnight and can ruin the next morning’s early coffee. Milk residues left behind in your coffee machine also cause nasty bacteria.
An added bonus is that adequate care will extend the machine’s life cycle and amount to fewer repairs, thus generating maximum income for the operator by saving on avoidable costs.
Independent operators will likely already have a “daily maintenance required” clause in their contract with the petrol station. Similarly, if the machine is owned by the petrol station itself, employees will be directed to ensure proper upkeep. The problem lies in accountability – how can you know if regular and adequate maintenance is really conducted?
Simple. Vendon’s IoT solution allows operators to track maintenance events and you’ll be able to see whether your petrol station clients are meeting their contractual obligations or not – if it’s cleaned at regular intervals and if any drinks are made after end-of-the-day maintenance.
Data-based insights for maximizing revenue
While high drink quality is key, it’s not the sole factor impacting customer experience and decisions. Customer experience is of particular importance at petrol stations, which strive to stand out from, for example, convenience stores, by presenting a clean, polished, and exclusive experience to the customer.
How can your coffee machines produce and contribute to this superior experience?
A. Respond to customer preferences
As an operator, you need to know what the preferences of your customers are – what drinks they prefer, what are the best-selling beverages, etc. In other words, you have to understand consumption patterns, respond to trends, and tackle usability issues with drink selection.
Your machine might make a stellar espresso, but that’s going to be no good in the middle of the summer when everyone wants an iced latte.
One Vendon client, for example, noticed many customers mixing several of the options offered on the machine to create the drink they wanted. These customers didn’t know that they could scroll to the next page on the machine’s screen where they would find that exact drink they’d been tediously concocting themselves. The client moved the drink to the first page and sales soared.
IoT solutions allow operators to see trends relating to drink and taste preferences and respond accordingly. Whether we’re talking about adapting to changing customer preferences over seasons or simply discovering buying patterns that can give insight into how people use the machine, this data is key to providing a tailored experience (e.g. most coffee sales happen in the morning, hence maintenance should be avoided in early hours) that keeps customers satisfied and returning for more.
B. Understand the place of coffee in the petrol station ecosystem
Knowing the correlation between coffee sales and human behavior can lead to increases in all-around sales. The coffee machine is still the centerpiece of any petrol station, but as more and more petrol stations introduce lunch options and warm pastries, among other things, coffee is becoming increasingly related to other consumables.
For instance, there was a case with a petrol station where
Vendon Cloud showed that coffee sales were at their highest between 8 and 9 AM. However, the largest stream of customers was observed between 7 and 8 AM. Why was more coffee sold during hours with fewer customers? Because pastries were delivered at 8 AM – after the early rush. By adjusting the delivery times of pastries to 7 AM, coffee sales grew to match the stream of customers.
Data-based insights can reveal the reasons behind consumer behavior and help operators optimize their operations to ensure maximum quantities of coffee are sold throughout each day.
Combat discrepancies and customer dishonesty
Dishonest customers are the bane of every cashier and an ongoing problem since the advent of coffee corners.
Opportunists will take advantage of differently priced drinks and try to game the system by getting a super nice cappuccino at the machine, but then claim at the register that it’s the cheapest black coffee. If at the end of the day, you see that you have sold 200 black coffees and 50 cappuccinos, but the machine shows 125 black coffees and 125 cappuccinos dispensed, then you have a problem on your hands.
Other times you might see employees who know the system abuse it (by, for example, using the machine’s Maintenance mode or Test mode) to make themselves and their friends free drinks.
The result? Inconsistencies and money lost. Again, if at the end of the day, you see in the register that 500 drinks have been sold, but the coffee machine shows 600 drinks dispensed, then you need to take preventive action to ensure you don’t lose income.
IoT and telemetry solutions can help identify when such scenarios occur and help vendors combat this type of stealing, and, hence, avoid losing money. Operators can see inconsistencies between drinks made and drinks sold using data in the Vendon platform. Plus, they can use other tools such as Barcode Scanners & Printers and
QuickPik to make sure it doesn’t happen again.
A. Barcode Scanners & Printers
Barcode Scanners & Printers are a simple and elegant solution. These devices, which are easy to integrate with the coffee machines and the company’s internal systems, enforce accountability.
Instead of trusting the customer to report their drink, you change the process to eliminate the possibility of theft. The customer:
- Purchases a drink at the counter
- Receives a printed coupon
- Scans the coupon at the machine
- The machine makes the respective drink
This is a particularly popular solution for petrol stations. It’s frequently used as part of loyalty programs – after spending above a specified amount, customers can receive a coupon for a free or discounted drink.
QuickPik is a payment app that allocates a certain amount of free drinks to those using the app. It’s perfect as a loyalty platform for employees to access their hot drinks, but in a reasonable amount – you set the limits.
This way, employees can take advantage of the coffee machines without having to sneak behind your back and abusing the system. You can track consumption remotely, set up and modify various benefits, and so much more.
There are countless other benefits made possible by telemetry: understanding which is the right machine for which location, remote price adjustments, maintenance status updates that allow avoiding downtime, saving on spare parts, and on and on. All of this helps save time and money and ensures operators are always in the know about what goes on with their machines.
Operators who understand the importance of customer experience will find it easy to make it the best it can be if they have the right tools and data at their disposal.