Todd Carmichael has lived and breathed coffee for 32 years. He’s the founder of La Colombe, a coffee shop with 12 locations across Philadelphia, New York, Chicago, and D.C, and the host of the Travel Channel series Dangerous Grounds. Fueled by Carmichael’s passion to push the U.S. coffee scene forward, La Colombe sits at the forefront of the ethical trade movement and regularly dabbles in new terrain like brewing the first-ever latte on tap. And it’s all paid off. The company is rapidly expanding, with plans to open 100+ locations across the country over the next few years.
But until recently, there was a problem — La Colombe’s old-school point-of-sale system. Slow, clunky, and confusing, the system didn’t move at the speed necessary to support the company’s growth. What’s more, it was big and ugly — a jarring contrast with La Colombe’s sleek design aesthetic, creating what Carmichael calls a “barrier” between his employees and the customer. So they ripped it all out and replaced everything with Square.
La Colombe is now a Square power-user, using Employee Management to streamline operations and manage employees across all its locations. And as La Colombe expands to 100+ locations, Square will be there to support it with our ever-growing suite of sophisticated tools for larger businesses.
As we were helping La Colombe make the switch to Square (we have to admit, it was satisfying to rip everything out), we caught a few minutes with Carmichael.
How did you decide it was time to expand?
I’ve come to the idea that America deserves better coffee. And I believe that we are the people to deliver on that promise. But I can’t deliver on that promise alone — I need partners. I need people who understand. We couldn’t have done that type of expansion without tools like Square. It’s impossible. Without you guys I probably wouldn’t succeed.
Why did you make the switch to Square?
You can’t make beautiful coffee over the Berlin Wall. In so many ways the old-school register was that. I’m going over these huge barriers — and that’s not what it’s about. You and I right now are talking without anything between us. That’s what Square offers to me.
Customer experience seems to be at the top of your priority list
What counts is making transactions quickly. Let’s get that part done and go to the part that counts — the interaction between us. I’m not just seeing the top of your head over a huge register. Architecture and design matters. It tells a story about who we are, which is about interaction with our customers. Square is beautiful, small, and quick.
Why is design so important?
I felt like my old register system were these anchors at the end of chains — and I’m floating on this beautiful ship. You guys have come along and you’ve changed that, you’ve caught up with me.
What does the switch to Square mean for your business?
First off, I know how to actually operate Square. I want mobile people and I want people out front. I’d like you to come into my café and have a great experience. Square makes my cafés a happier experience. It’s a fact.
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