Having experienced New Zealand’s vibrant coffee scene for over 2 years, friends Conor and Eric returned home with aspirations to deliver the same quality, ethically-sourced brews to the Irish midlands through their freewheeling enterprise, Rural Vagabonds.
A summer of planning and grafting led to the development of a bespoke coffee trailer, built from scratch using reclaimed material. They then partnered with a specialty coffee supplier committed to growing coffee ethically and offering transparent, fair wages for the workers that farm and roast the beans.
However, the business was only finding its feet when the Covid-19 pandemic pulled the brakes on their project in March 2020. Reopening later that summer in a set location across from Jysk in Naas Retail Park, the pair discovered customers’ payment behaviours had been significantly altered. Conor notes how their previous payment provider struggled with heightened card payment demands and how BOIPA has transformed payments from a pain point to a business benefit.
Conor recalls noticing how their customers’ attitude to payments flipped quickly and irreversibly when the cafe was closed in 2020.
“Before the pandemic we were servicing commuters at Hazelhatch train station and most of our sales were cash-based. When we reopened in June 2020 at Naas Retail Park, there was a complete reversal with the majority of our customers wanting to pay with their card or mobile phone. Most sales became contactless.”
The change put new pressure on their old card terminal with issues mounting at the point of sale, causing distress for their staff and consternation for customers.
We’d have connectivity problems or the terminal would just turn off without warning. It was embarrassing for us and our team. We could see customers not coming back fearing more payment issues. It made little sense for us to invest so much time and resource quite literally building a business from scratch, developing an informed and personal brand, along with sourcing best-in-class coffee and food to then deliver a poor payment experience for our customer. We spoke to our Bank of Ireland account manager who pointed us towards BOIPA and we were up and running in no time.”
Set-up proved to be straightforward with installation and training delivered onsite. The engineer talked the team through using the new terminal and the relief, he recalls, was immediately evident.
“Yes, the pricing is better too and we receive net instead of gross settlement, making it easier to more accurately consolidate our accounts, but it’s BOIPA’s reliability that really stands out. The machine is bulletproof and, in over two years, we’ve never had a connectivity or hardware issue, and our daily takings are settled into our account the next working day helping us with cash flow. Uncomplicated customer experiences are paying off with a bump in our bottomline and our team is happier with the service.”
Despite the pandemic, a cost of living crisis and inflation, the business continues to grow with the bespoke coffee trailer now supporting the working community around Telfords in Portlaoise. The location has changed and a significant gap in time has passed since restrictions from Covid have lifted but card payment preference remains resolute for Rural Vagabonds’ customers.
“There are days where we don’t make a single cash sale. Our regulars want to get their coffee, maybe a sandwich and snack, and then just tap and go. Having less cash onsite gives our team less of a headache to deal with and less trips to the bank for Eric and I.”
With expansion plans becoming a reality, the coffee business was sure to include BOIPA in the planning.
“It’s funny, when planning for growth we would usually just include our great team firstly, then our producers and sustainable packaging suppliers. Now we’re linking in with our card terminal supplier because having a payment provider that can fully support our requirements is an absolute operational necessity.”
The Rural Vagabonds team put this adage to the test with an additional unit when requests for event catering kept mounting up.
“I suppose, our original purpose was to offer something that promised more than the same in places where they lack the facilities or options. With Covid, we lost our customer base at the train station and our annual events’ schedule overnight. We never returned to mobile events with our flagship now fixed in one place. We were still getting requests to cater for events, ranging from weddings, open days and corporate outings. So, one of our experienced team members approached us about opening and franchising a second unit from us and we turned to BOIPA when planning it.
“They installed a second card terminal for us and moved us onto a more appropriate pricing package. We’ve brought our coffee from the Vales of Avoca to the heights of the Slieve Bloom mountains and our mobile card terminal has never let us down. For larger payments and invoice settlements, we can even take payments over the phone.
The wheels are still turning for the fledgling business with their sights set for online sales.
“This year, we’re looking at completely refreshing our website and entering the eCommerce world with our own coffee label, subscriptions and products true to our brand. We’re confident we can do this with BOIPA’s support.”
From pandemic pains, no trains, and a bespoke freewheeling automobile, this business’ ability to pivot stands the enterprise in good stead for future progress. With quality coffee and customer experiences now matched with an innovative payment services provider, the road less travelled has become less complicated for this growing coffee franchise.