Skip Zero launches swap-cup program

skip zero

Skip Zero combines the convenience, simplicity, and traceability of a pre-ordering app with the sustainability of a swap-cup program.

Over its six years servicing the Australian food and beverage industry, Skip has witnessed the rise of customers turning to reusable cups firsthand. The pre-ordering app even added a bring-your-own (BYO) option at the request of its users. However, Skip CEO Bill Bizos tells BeanScene it was tricky combining the idea of BYO with Skip’s intention of ‘skipping the queue’.

skip zero
Skip Zero introduces pre-ordering and convenience to the swap-cup program.

“It wasn’t until I was at a Bunnings store swapping out a gas tank bottle for my barbeque right before Christmas that it dawned on me, ‘you know what, this could work with a cup swap’,” Bill says.

“We saw an opportunity to play a part in the sustainability of the industry. One billion cups go to landfill in Australia each year, which is massive. The question for us was: ‘how do we reduce that waste and create a sustainable system without compromising on convenience and efficiency?’”

The answer was Skip Zero, a swap-cup program that allows customers to pre-order their coffee in a reusable cup, exchanging their old one for a new one when picking it up, without having to wait in a queue. Bill says this system avoids some of the issues that have dogged other reusable alternatives.

“We want to make it simple to be sustainable, and I think that’s been the biggest problem. We all want to be sustainable, but a lot of the time, the breakdown is because it’s not convenient. I think it will play a massive part if we can reduce that,” he says.

First time users receive a new reusable cup and lid with their first order using Skip Zero on the Skip App. Each cup has an inbuilt near-field communication (NFC) chip, which the merchant or barista scans to assign it to the customer.

The next time that customer orders a coffee through Skip Zero, the barista assigns another cup to them. When they arrive, the customer returns their used cup – which gets unassigned and goes through a commercial dishwasher – and they walk away with a fresh cup, popping on their existing lid.

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Skip Zero keeps track of the number of cups users keep from going to landfill.

Cafés that join the Skip Zero movement pay a small sign-up fee to receive an NFC reader, 12 cups to allow swapping, and 30 retail cups and lids for first time users – for which cafés will receive a rebate. Skip has also developed ‘coasters’ the barista can place on top of a cup so it remains hot while waiting for the customer to arrive.

Bills says this system has been in development for more than a year to ensure a seamless experience for both barista and user. It also took time to find the right cup which ticked all the boxes Skip was looking for.

“We’re an Australian business and our goal is to support local. The company that produces the cups is Melbourne-based, Australian owned, and is a certified B Corporation,” Bill says.

“For the cup itself, not only did it have to look good and be sustainable, it had to perform well too. That meant ensuring it is odourless, isn’t porous or breakable – it can go through 1200 commercial washes – and has a great pour, so it’s easy for baristas too.”

Skip tested the system at several key sites around Melbourne before bringing it to the wider community. These include Standing Room in Melbourne Central, No Vacancy at QV, and La Trobe and Deakin Universities.

“We want to ensure we learnt as much as possible before launching, which is why we’ve been testing for such a long period of time. The feedback has been really positive: that it’s easy and simple from both sides,” Bill says.

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Skip Zero cups have been made to look appealing as well as be ergonomic.

“More venues are already jumping onboard. The existing Skip technology will enable us to work with our 2300 merchants and take this to market with a greater impact.”

After a wider launch of the cup swap program, Skip intends to expand Skip Zero into food packaging, ‘leases’ for additional cups, and catering to large events. While COVID-19 has cast a shadow on the ‘BYO cup’ mentality, Bill says Skip Zero provides an extra level of hygiene and assurance.

“Skip Zero will enable us to create a swap experience using a commercially washed and sterilised cup,” he says. “It’s also cashless, has inbuilt loyalty programs, and creates a virtual queue. With COVID-19, you don’t really want to be standing around waiting for a coffee.”

The ability to pre-order is only one benefit the original Skip app brought over to Skip Zero. Bill says the platform brings a new level of traceability to the cup swap.

“Each time a coffee is purchased through Skip Zero, the merchant and customer both receive a notification letting them know they saved one cup, which is added to a tally,” he says.

“It’s nice to know what impact you’re having on the environment, and we provide data on exactly how many cups you’ve saved and the difference you’re making.”

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This article appears in the August 2020 edition of BeanScene. Subscribe HERE.

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