The rise of digital payments: How Pancakes on the Rocks went cashless during COVID-19
Before the COVID-19 crisis struck, around 60 per cent of diners at Pancakes on the Rocks paid with contactless cards or mobile wallet apps. Since the advent of the pandemic, digital payments have risen to around 90 per cent.
The company’s general manager Nelson Tromp first started discouraging cash transactions as a health-and-safety measure, but was surprised to see the benefits minimising cash brought to other areas of the business.
Pancakes on the Rocks employs a team of 260 to prepare and serve its signature sweet and savoury pancakes, pizzas, ribs and breakfasts at its six outlets across Sydney and the Gold Coast. The diner chain was serving around 25,000 customers a week until March 2020, when national COVID-19 restrictions forced it to close. When it reopened in late June, trade was down at some of its locations and so were cash sales.
“The trend was driven by our customers and the government,” says Tromp. “We put up signs at our registers saying ‘card preferred’ and, as soon as people heard that minimising the use of cash was a good way to reduce transmission of the virus, they just stopped using it.”
Even before COVID-19, cash sales had been on the wane at this restaurant. “Australians are early adopters of technology and, once it became possible to pay using your phone, that’s what people started wanting to do because the phone was always in their hand,” says Tromp. “Fewer people wanted to carry cash or even a card.”
Fewer cash sales mean speedier service – a plus for both customers and staff, particularly at peak times. “Our top restaurant can serve 100 people in an hour so you can get a bit of a queue at the register if several groups leave at once,” says Tromp. “Cashless payments are a big time saver. You’re not waiting for people to go through their wallet to look for the right money, for the cash drawer to open or to give change. It’s much quicker, staff make fewer mistakes and there’s less fraud.”
Combatting the latter used to be an ongoing challenge. It’s easy for an employee to miss a counterfeit note when it’s late at night or they’re busy. Or to be thrown off by a customer who insists they paid with a $50 note, not a $20. “We have CCTV cameras and can go back and review the footage,” Tromp says. “If an employee has made an error, of course, we’ll apologise and give the customer the correct change. And if the error is theirs, we can take a screenshot to show them. But it all takes time and these incidents tend to occur when we’re at our busiest, or when we have new staff on who aren’t experienced managing these kinds of situations.”
There have been far fewer of these incidents since the business minimised cash payments. “When people pay with card or app, it’s totally integrated and seamless and the risk of something happening is so much less,” says Tromp.
Implementing cashless technology is usually a simple and cost-effective process for small businesses. The restaurant now uses a Windows-based point-of-sale (POS) system1 designed for retail and hospitality businesses. It connects directly with the Westpac EFTPOS merchant terminal, which means payments can be processed instantly.
Takings at each venue are reconciled at the end of every eight-hour shift. And, according to Tromp, the rise in digital payments has sped up the process significantly. “Fewer cash sales mean less chance of an error, less time spent counting bundles of cash and, consequently, less time trying to reconcile the till,” he says. “We run a couple of print-outs and it’s usually perfect. For our managers, the whole tallying-up process is more convenient and less stressful than it used to be.”
The benefits of a cashless model go beyond saving time on the restaurant floor. Because you can link bank feeds from Westpac business transaction accounts to cloud accounting solutions2, including Xero, MYOB and QuickBooks businesses can streamline the whole operation. This allows them to minimise the time they spend on bookkeeping and usually means they have better visibility over their finances.
Meanwhile, having less cash on the premises has enabled this restaurant to reduce its spend on insurance and cash collection. “Your premium for theft is calculated based on the amount of cash that you store, while cash-collection services charge a percentage-based fee,” says Tromp. “By reducing the amount of cash we handle, we’ve been able to make savings in both those areas. When you’re running a small business, it all adds up.”
Minimising cash sales at your business can save time and money, and help you provide better service to your customers. Contact-free payment technology is easy to implement and your bank can help you make the switch.
The advice within this article is general in nature and may not be appropriate for you. We recommend you seek professional financial advice before proceeding.
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