Perth cafe brings coffee orders to your smartphone

Perth's Mooba cafes have stepped up from SMS coffee orders to a new smartphone app which, thanks to clever use of Twitter and cross-promotion of its food products, has quickly paid for itself.

All Mark Dillon wanted was a good cup of coffee.

Five years later he owns two cafes and has just launched a new mobile application that allows his customers to order coffee from their smartphones.

“About five years ago my wife and I were sitting on a vacant bit of land and thinking we would kill for a good coffee.”

The idea grew into Mooba, a pair of cafes in the Perth suburbs of Wembley and Subiaco that serve what Dillon calls “boutique coffee, instead of just quick crappy coffee.”

For Mooba quality means steaming milk individually for every drink, rather than preparing large jugs of milk that are poured into several cups of coffee.

“It isn’t a quick process but is one that works,” Dillon says, but it does have the downside of meaning “we can’t make coffee any quicker.”

To satisfy loyal customers, Dillon introduced SMS ordering.

Customers text in their order, plus their name, and know that their requested beverage will be available a few minutes later.

The system buys valuable time for baristas and represents great customer service.

SMS ordering has been a strong success: 200 to 300 orders arrive by text every day.

But Dillon, inspired by the growth of social media, wanted to stay on the leading edge.

He therefore commissioned a developer to create his app and then invited customers into his cafes to test it.

“We are heavily into social media and use Twitter religiously: we have over 1000 followers and host Tweetups (meetings of Twitter friends)," Dillon said.

"For the launch of the app we held a tweetup and asked everyone to come in. We gave them the link to the app and they put their orders through.”

Feedback from this session quickly suggested enhancements to the app.

Mooba’s app is not the kind you download.

Instead it is accessible though a special website – mobile.mooba.com.au – that can be saved to a smartphone and behaves like a conventional app.

Dillon decided to use this type of app because it meant a single project could cover all smartphones, instead of tying it to either the iPhone or another platform and therefore missing out on some of the smartphone-owning population.

Another element of the app is its inclusion of a small promotion for food.

“As a business owner I had to make it cost-effective,” Dillon says.

“So the final page of the app is a bit of an up sell. We mention what we have coming out of the oven, things like fresh banana bread. Even if we get 5% or 10% buying the banana bread it is worth it. It’s worked well so far.”

Dillon is now working to promote the app, with the cafes’ Twitter account one of his main weapons.

“We have a big database of people from SMS ordering but we just don’t do cynical marketing,” he says.

“Instead we try to build rapport with people and a lot of that comes from our Twitter presence. We don’t just promote: we use it to communicate.

“I see some other cafes and they use Twitter once every three weeks and it is only about what they are selling. We chat to our customers. If someone Tweets that they feel bad, we respond.”

Twitter even helps Mooba to conduct market research.

“Our Subiaco cafe is in a business district and we didn’t know whether we should open over Easter. We asked our customers on Twitter, got a resounding response, opened when customers said they wanted us to open and did a good day’s business.”

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