BAINBRIDGE, GA -- Pepi Food Services has signed an agreement with USA Technologies to enable cashless payment at 100% of its vending machines by the end of 2012. This target date is three years earlier than the company's original plan.
Two years ago, the Bainbridge, GA, vending and foodservice operation began planning to roll out a cashless solution across its vending machine base over a five-year period, using USAT's ePort Connect cashless payment and telemetry service. | SEE STORY
Based on customer response to the machines already networked, and incentives like USAT's JumpStart program, Pepi is on track to accelerate that timetable, with full deployment to its 1,000-plus clients targeted for the end of 2012.
"Our decision to go cashless was really about the customer experience," said Vic Pemberton, president and founder of Pepi Food Services. "We've had such a great customer response to the cashless option on our vending machines that we decided to speed up the implementation."
He observed that today's younger generation simply doesn't carry cash, and that many of Pepi's customers now get their paychecks on a debit card. "At Pepi, we want our customers to be able to buy with whatever is in their pockets; if they can't, they're hungry and can't get what they want, and it's a bad experience," the operator pointed out.
Pemberton emphasized that the approach of many operators -- to limit cashless acceptance to certain types of equipment or locations -- also limits customers' convenience. "If I'm a coffee drinker, that's a very important part of my day, and I may only have a credit card," he instanced. "Some operators only accept debit and credit cards at glassfront soda machines, but this means that coffee customer who doesn't have cash can't get his cup of coffee. By going 100% cashless, we are zeroing in on more people buying more things by creating a consistently great experience for them."
From a financial standpoint, Pemberton said, one trend he has seen across the board is that debit and credit card usage grows month by month in every location after an ePort terminal is installed. "Cashless may be 2% of sales today and 10% next year and 15% a year later," he said. "The more people get comfortable with usage, the more business you see. You can't put cashless out for three or six months and snatch it if it doesn't meet your expectations, just like you can't halfway convert an operation to the prekitting model; you're either in it or you're out."
Pemberton added that he has learned that it is impossible to predict which locations will be "best" for cashless vending and which won't, and that trying to do so is a disservice to the customer.
"I've seen one hospital do great and one not, and one plant do great and another do terribly," he told VT. "I know some operators would scratch their heads at some of the machines where Pepi is offering cashless payment. But I would challenge them and say: 'Why have a machine there in the first place if you're not going to cater to the customer?' In totality, cash and cashless sales together increase the performance of that piece of equipment. And if you don't take debit or credit cards, you're out of the business; you just don't know it yet."
The Georgia operator said Pepi's decision to accelerate cashless deployment was based in part on the ease of USAT's "end-to-end" solution, including integrated telemetry services that enable both cashless payment and remote data collection. He added that Pepi has benefitted from its JumpStart program, a bundled solution that enables operators to quickly deploy the ePort cashless payment and telemetry service without upfront capital costs.
"USA Technologies' one-stop shop makes it easy for us to scale quickly over a short amount of time, because we don't have to worry about piecing together a system and managing many suppliers. It's simple: we install the ePort, and it works," said Pemberton.
"Also, we are always on the lookout for the latest trends and technologies, and USA Technologies helps us stay ahead of the curve," he added. "For example, we have already deployed some of their NFC/contactless and mobile payments technology. When that trend reaches mainstream vending, we want to be ready."
USA Technologies now has nearly 60,000 terminals linked to its ePort Connect service that are able to accept NFC/contactless payments made with RFID media and mobile devices, enabling its operator customers to accept these new forms of payment. The service is designed to be compatible with all mobile payment platforms including Google Wallet, ISIS, PayPal and others.