SINGAPORE - Oromo Coffee, a three-year-old cafe at Shaw Tower, had found itself facing high staff turnover as well as impatient customers who could easily get their caffeine fix elsewhere.
"People who were in a rush and people who were more relaxed were all standing in the queue together. Some would get frustrated and walk away," said cafe founder Toh Ee Ming.
To solve the problem, the cafe rolled out an iPad app in February to allow customers who are not in a rush to self-order and self-collect, freeing up the two baristas on duty to serve the "grab and go" customers.
This has allowed Oromo to serve both groups more efficiently without hiring more baristas, leading to an 80 per cent rise in sales, said Mr Toh, 42.
The cafe's innovation was highlighted by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong in his speech at the launch of National Productivity Month yesterday.
Mr Ronald Dalderup, director and co-founder of innovation consultancy NBDA Asia, who worked with Mr Toh to survey his customer base and develop the new system, said that maintaining a good customer experience is key if service is reduced.
Dine-in customers get to make their orders from the comfort of their seats, explore the menu and create their own drinks, he said.
For those in a rush, the queues are shorter - waiting time during the lunch hour has gone down from five minutes to 3½.
As one of the first movers, Mr Toh said there are challenges in getting people to use the system.
But he believes it will be implemented in more and more food and beverage establishments in time to come.
"Singaporeans will also become more receptive to using such self-help technology, and we can help to introduce them to it," he said.
This article was first published on October 8, 2014.
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