#SMETowkay: Staying Lean the Digital Way

Instead of joining a snaking lunchtime queue for a cup of kopi or teh, an office worker waits just outside local beverage retailer, Old Tea Hut. Moments later, when a call number flashes on the screen, she struts past the line to the collection point, flashes her mobile phone at a member of staff, and whizzes off — piping hot drink in hand.

Such seamless, self-serviced purchases are enabled by DBS FasTrack, an e-commerce app that Old Tea Hut signed up for with the help of the Info-communications Media Development Authority (IMDA). Co-developed by local bank DBS and tech solution provider Applied Mesh, this digital solution lets customers place advance orders with food and beverage merchants and to simply collect-and-go when they pay via the app with a credit or debit card.

This is how many office workers skip the queue at Old Tea Hut’s outlet at Marina Bay Link Mall today. They order their morning cuppa’ while on their way to work and book their afternoon refreshment while enjoying their lunch. With a few taps on their smartphones, they can even customise their drinks via the app — requesting for their desired amounts of sugar or ice — just as they would do at a brick-and-mortar store. According to an early trial, DBS found that the average queue time during peak hours for Old Tea Hut’s customers was reduced from twenty minutes to just six minutes.

While the technology has brought about greater convenience for its customers, Old Tea Hut’s managing director, Kenny Loy also sees its potential to increase the sales volume of his stores. “We are in the CBD and business tends to be dead quiet outside the peak periods,” says the entrepreneur. “We need to grow our capacity to serve as many customers as possible during those few hours.”

This is especially so as Old Tea Hut pays premium rent for its four takeaway-only outlets, all located in Singapore’s financial district. By combining the often cumbersome and time consuming process of ordering and payment into a single app, FasTrack helps Kenny manage manpower costs and grow revenue. The app completes sales without the need to hire an additional cashier, allowing him to maximize his kitchen’s full capacity.

“Retail spaces are expensive which is why I only do takeaways, I don’t have more space (for) another cashier,” says Kenny who estimates his cashiers spend some 15 seconds per transaction on average, which adds up to some 3.5 hours a day.

He adds that it is necessary for food and beverage businesses to take advantages of technology today. “With online ordering and delivery, it has changed the whole lifestyle (of customers).” As people get increasingly used to such convenience even when ordering their food, they are less likely to spend time queuing, much less so for a drink. “Now everyone needs to hop on to technology.”

Thinking of going digital? The SMEs Go Digital programme by IMDA matches companies to the appropriate tech solutions and offers financial subsidies too. Get started at www.imda.gov.sg/smesgodigital

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