How Vancouver’s Forecast Coffee cuts costs and optimizes staff time with Square

Vancouver, B.C. native Jim Salusbury worked at a large accounting company in his hometown before opening up his own firm. Eventually shifting to the hospitality industry, Salusbury owned several cafes before creating his own brand, Forecast Coffee. Here, we speak to Salusbury about catching the entrepreneurial bug, growing his business during the COVID-19 pandemic, the customer experience at Forecast and how Square’s products help him and his staff run a successful coffee shop. (Note: Forecast Coffee was compensated for this interview.)

On catching the entrepreneurial bug and growing his brand in Vancouver during the pandemic

After starting my own accounting firm, I found that I was really enjoying the operational side of things. I eventually bought a small cafe in Whistler, B.C., and it kind of snowballed from there — at one point I owned and operated five cafes in the Whistler area! Once I had learned the ropes in the industry I decided to create my own brand, and Forecast Coffee was born. I’ve been growing the business in the Vancouver area ever since. It’s so cool that as a small business owner in the city where I grew up I’m now in a position to have some influence, and the ability to give back and help this community flourish.

It was around the start of COVID-19 when I started taking stock of how we were running the business. I thought “Okay, let’s spend this quieter time, when we’re not doing as much business, trying to improve how we operate.” As an accountant, I’m a big data and analytics guy, and I was really keen to improve our reporting and internal system. We looked for a point-of-sale system and payment provider that could help level us up, and that’s when we found Square.

On choosing Square

Square first grabbed my attention when I noticed that a lot of my peers in the industry were using it. That gave me a lot of confidence and trust in the brand. I also really liked the appearance of the hardware, which looks very sleek, modern and professional on our cafe counters. It was the kind of aesthetic I was after for Forecast.

The transition to using Square was very smooth. The platform is very intuitive, and it was really easy and quick for us to get set up. Since it’s cloud-based software, I can access the data from anywhere, at any time. The mobile app gives me all the basic information that I need to run the business on a day-to-day basis, and then typically I will either go either on an iPad or my work laptop, that’s where I’ll dive into the portal and run more detailed reports for our management uses. Having the Square Stand in our cafes has created a lot of efficiency for us and speed throughput in a number of areas: because the user interface is so easy to use, it’s faster for our staff to ring through each sale, and then they can just turn the Square Stand around to the customer so they can quickly complete their part of the transaction. We also use the Square Terminal, which allows us to grow our business in terms of doing mobile events like farmer’s markets. We can be places that we wouldn’t be if we weren’t using Square.

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On creating efficiencies by cutting costs and optimizing staff time

Before signing up with Square, we didn’t have real-time data at our fingertips, so we didn’t have instant access to our labour hours or labour cost percentages, which are really critical in the food and beverage industry. Now we have real-time reporting of when each staff member signs in for their shift, we can track hours as the day goes by, and then we have the ability to calculate the labour cost percentages. This is key, because that’s how we are able to budget and manage our profit margins. It also allows us to make better decisions quicker, which then saves a lot of cost potentially. Having cloud-based, real-time data at our fingertips throughout each operating day provides a huge amount of value to us daily.

With the time that I’ve gotten back from the efficiencies gained with Square I’ve been able to spend more time with my staff and actually help my managers manage the business. We spend less time analyzing data because we have that information at the ready. This means more time to work together on creative ways to keep growing, time to plan staff events and improve our employee morale instead of just working on the numbers. Square also helps our staff members and managers effectively and efficiently manage their own schedules. Overall, the whole ecosystem of Square products has created a user experience for us that has reduced our costs, improved our customer service and increased employee happiness. Personally, Square makes my life easy, and allows me better work-life balance so I can spend more time outside of work doing the things that I love to do.

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On the customer experience

Customer experience is a big deal for me. You need to think like a customer: when they first walk through the door what do they see and feel? What’s the interaction that they have with the staff in the store? Does the line move quickly or slowly? Does it feel like they are being handled in the most efficient way possible, and in a friendly manner? When we build our cafes, so much goes into creating the space that we want the customers to experience. As a business owner, what drives me is seeing happy customers and providing a great experience in an environment that people want to be in. We want people to leave happier than they were when they came in.

When we switched to Square, our customers certainly noticed. We received a lot of positive feedback that the checkout process was easier. They like our loyalty program and how easy it is for them to input their information into the Square Stand, and then get a text message or an email about their rewards. With Square Online, customers have the ability to order their food ahead of time if they’re on the go, which provides an efficient experience, since they can handle the transaction online and just swing by to pick up their order. When a customer does come into one of our cafes to order, and they interact with Square products, it’s fast, seamless and professional, and that is a positive reflection of us as a business.

On what’s brewing next for Forecast Coffee

Since signing up with Square we’ve grown our business a lot, and we continue to add new locations. As we grow and expand our revenue streams, whether that means eCommerce or wholesale channels, it’ll still be in our best interest and make the most sense to keep our entire business under one platform. So we’ll be looking to leverage all of Square’s technology for any growth that we have.