Flo-Smart Beverage Solutions is helping cafés work smarter, reduce waste, drive efficiency, and improve profits through a contactless automated beverage dispensing system.
Good technology will do more than just the role it was designed to fill. It will have a holistic effect, improving the process and efficiency of the business or its user.
Like the iPhone does much more than let you make calls and listen to music with one device, the Flo-Smart Touch Beverage Dispenser does more for a café, than simply deliver and pour its liquids.
“There’s a process and resultant efficiency improvement within the café ecosystem. In short, Flo-Smart delivers the beverage of choice, at a constant temperature in exacting quantities more efficiently,” says Nick Carter of Flo-Smart Beverage Solutions.
“It’s about a whole-of-business understanding, centred around what the system does from a total cost of ownership. Looking at how owners and managers of a venue are able to adjust processes or methodologies within a café in order to leverage new technology.”
The Flo-Smart Touch dispenses up to four different pulp-and-sentiment-free chilled, still beverages at the point of sale. The system is hands free, automated, and is able to dispense the exact amount of the beverage required every single time. These measured doses can be of different varieties of milk or, for example, ancillary cold drinks like cold brew coffee and tea, juice, or water.
“Cafés use a lot of different types of milk. Whether it’s full cream, skim, soy, or other plant-based milks; they are now able to dispense those through the one unit, rather than having two-litres bottles sitting on the bench,” Nick says.
“At the end of the day, Flo-Smart can dispense pretty much any liquid with the right engineering design applied. That’s the beauty of dealing with a systems company like Flo-Smart, we are able to design, install and maintain a chilled beverage dispensing solution to suit a particular environment.”
The Flo-Smart Touch is controlled with an intuitive touchscreen system that is typically installed into the bench, where baristas are then able to control specific software parameters. But what Flo-Smart offers goes well beyond the unit on the counter and what it encompasses.
“It’s not just a product, it’s a whole system. Flo-Smart installs and commissions piping and refrigeration/chiller solutions as maybe required for each environment, through skilled in-house contractors. It’s a whole different scenario than simply selling product,” Nick says.
“You can have your milk or cold brew stored in Flo-Smart 18 litre containers, in a fridge below or near to the dispenser, or cool room in the back of store, and our system, including piping and insulation, will transfer that beverage from that location to the point of sale.”
Flo-Smart provides these beverages at calibrated temperatures and exacting quantities, ensuring less wastage and removing one of the variables in coffee making.
“Café owners require consistency of delivery, both in the liquid itself and the temperature. Temperature of the milk is important in the art of making good coffee,” Nick says.
“Traditionally, you have the milk bottles moving from under-bench refrigeration and then potentially sitting on the bench, rising to room temperature pretty quickly, making it not only a quality, but possibly a hygiene issue as well. Flo-Smart delivers consistent, calibrated doses of milk into the jug at the same temperature every single time.”
Station Stop in Parkdale, Victoria, was one of the first cafés to install the Flo-Smart Touch. Under typical circumstances, the café was serving 1200 to 1400 cups of coffee per day and using more than 200 litres of different milk varieties. A staff member would be rostered on busy shifts to go back and forth from the fridge and keep milk topped up.
Wael Bou-Karrom, Owner and Operator of Station Stop, says while this level of business is welcome, “it places pressure on [our] systems and processes”.
Via chilled lines installed by Flo-Smart, different milks are dispensed at a constant 2°C to 4°C from 18-litre containers kept in a fridge at the rear of the building. Wael says the appeal of the Flo-Smart Touch came from its ability to dispense a variety of beverages and milk types into custom jug configurations.
“With the touch of a button, the jugs sizes are programmed and your required volumes stored,” he says. “Major settings are password protected, with small ‘tweaks’ to volumes still accessible for users to adjust on the fly.”
Automating the café’s milk delivery led to an increase in the speed of service as well as a significant reduction in waste of milk and its packaging.
“The result has been simply amazing,” Wael says. “Quality, speed, and efficiency is up and wastage at both the product and labour levels are down incrementally. The blending of passion for service, with purpose-built technology has made a very real difference to our café.”
With reduced wastage and overhead taken into consideration, Nick says Flo-Smart estimates an average café will earn back the money it spends on the system within 12 months.
“Once it’s installed, it may lead to a reduction in overhead as well as possibly help to address some fundamental [operational health and safety] issues, particularly around injury associated with repetitive strain, through process efficiency of the café,” he says.
“We looked at the average use per day, wastage typically seen in a café environment with overfilling of jugs and throwing out milk left on the bench too long; combined with the efficiency of reducing labour costs during peak periods, and Flo-Smart has a significant impact on overhead, if you look at how some of these cafés operate.”
Nick adds that the development of the Flo-Smart solution also took its practicality into consideration, including ensuring that the dispenser itself did not look out of place on an espresso bar.
“It’s designed to be a ‘bit of art’ and hence, it’s pretty different to how one would usually dispense beverages. We looked at the expense and overhead cafés allocate to their coffee machines, some of which are more expensive than an average car. So, we wanted to make sure our design aesthetic was consistent with the rest of the barista’s technology,” Nick says.
While COVID-19 has limited the capacity of many cafés to invest in new technology, Nick says it has also highlighted the need to operate as efficiently as possible. To help cafés invest in the system, Flo-Smart has partnered with Valiant Finance to assist customers with the cost of installing the solution.
“We want to offer selected cafés and venues Australia-wide, a getting-back-to-business opportunity, so we can help them get their cafés back into the marketplace,” Nick says.
“You can either buy the Flo-Smart solution outright, or you can rent/lease through Valiant Finance [subject to their lending terms] and have technology installed that will save you money, for potentially only two to three hundred dollars per week.”
With Flo-Smart having recently launched to the market, Nick says he looks forward to seeing the system improve the coffee making process of more cafés across Australia and the world.
“Cafés have staff ranging from the fully-fledged barista, to the new young person picking up work on the weekend and making coffee,” Nick says.
“Our goal is to help them embrace technology that improves the overall café experience for all, as well as drive costs down.”
For more information, visit www.flo-smart.com
This article appears in the August 2020 edition of BeanScene. Subscribe HERE.