Flourish Bakehouse was opened in October 2021, a time when many Safe Management Measures were in place to safeguard public health. However, these tough times did not deter founder Diane Ong, who opened her bakery at Phoenix Park, realising what had previously been a retirement goal.
POS system Qashier has been part of the Flourish since its opening, fulfilling the specific needs of the bakery’s operations, and providing valuable insights that have made their operations more efficient. SMEhorizon speaks with Diane Ong, Founder of Flourish Bakehouse on her journey into the F&B industry at a challenging time. Christopher Choo, Co-Founder and CEO, Qashier, also weighs in how small businesses like hers can continue to stay competitive, while strategically seeking out POS systems and e-payment solutions that best suit their needs.
Realising one’s goals no matter the situation
Ong recounts leaving her corporate role about a year before Flourish opened, and taking on baking as a side hustle. “Opening my own business was always on the table so when the opportunity presented itself in the form of a space that I saw great potential in, the question changed from a ‘Should I?’ to a ‘Why not?’,” she recalls.
And while many aspiring entrepreneurs like her might have been by the pandemic’s impact on the F&B sector, Ong remained undaunted. “Pandemic or no pandemic – I think the reality of business is that there will always be a level of uncertainty,” she says.
Indeed, while the pandemic has provided many obstacles, it has also thrown into focus ways to remain competitive in the changing business landscape. Choo highlights digitalisation as now essential for SMEs to remain competitive, particularly in the area of payments. “The key is to implement emerging technology that can enhance your business, as well as give your customers options,” he advises. “Your customers may be ready to pay, but are you ready to receive?”
Although digitalisation can involve reaching out to customers online, he continues, it can also involve automating processes that may have been done manually in the past. “Managing stocks and inventory, or even planning employees schedules and commissions, can all be streamlined with the right software in place.”
Overcoming the challenges of new businesses
While many recognise technology’s importance, new business owners may still feel hesitant to invest. Choo recognises that “at the initial stages of getting your business off the ground, two hurdles may seem the most unsurmountable – cost and expertise.”
As such, research is important. “The right POS solutions should be easy-to-use and master, with solutions that allow you to streamline your processes that keep your costs down,” he advises. “Align yourself with a partner that wants to support the long term growth of your business.”
For Ong, Qashier was a choice that met Flourish’s specific needs. “I wanted something that was user-friendly, robust in functions and portable,” she shares. “We have limited counter space at Flourish so I needed something that was sleek and lightweight that could also double up for my staff to take orders from the main counter or through the window.”
The system has also allowed Flourish to accept multiple kinds of payments. This is an essential feature today: Choo advises that “along with cash, your next smart POS system should accept card, mobile and e-wallet payments.”
“In physical stores, safe-distancing measures meant that adopting cashless and touchless payment methods were imperative. Future-proofing your business with integrated payments, allows you to give your customers options. You want the transaction process between your customer and you to be as seamless as possible,” shares Choo.
“A smart POS system should support omnichannel commerce. For retail businesses this would mean integrating with popular e-commerce platforms like Shopify and WooCommerce,” he adds.
“And for F&B businesses, the system should integrate with food delivery marketplaces like GrabFood and foodpanda.”
Besides the essential function of accepting payments, a smart POS system can also benefit the business in other ways. Ong shares that “The ability to run various types of reports on our sales data has been incredibly helpful.
“For example, being more aware of the peak hour customer traffic has helped us determine our opening hours and staffing needs more precisely.”
Taking the right steps for the future
All in all, SMEs looking for a POS system or e-payment solution that suits their needs are advised by Choo not to narrowly focus on cost, but also consider what a potential system would bring to the business.
“Does the hardware come in a form function that suits your business? If you have a F&B establishment that is closing sales table-side, you may want a terminal which is portable and light enough to hold in one hand.
“Or do you want the customer experience to end at the counter with a large customer-facing display that could clearly show the sales breakdown, alongside a QR code that leads customers to your socials.
“Form is nothing without function – Is the system easy to set up, pick up and use? The POS system must be intuitive, and be regularly updated with the latest and greatest software,” he says.
Other considerations for retailers include having a system that can manage inventory and scale across chains, and one that can seamlessly integrate with their current operations workflows out of the box.
“For example”, he continues, “if they are using Xero for accounting and Shopify for e-commerce, the POS should be able to integrate with both for a streamlined end-to-end experience.” Readily available tech support should also be a consideration.
Going forward while remaining grounded
For Ong, expanding into other locations is not currently a priority, despite her bakery gaining traction a lot faster than she expected. “I’ve always envisioned Flourish to be an extension of home for our customers and as businesses expand, it is easy for things to become very transactional,” she explains.
“It might sound very simple but my plan for Flourish is for us to continue remaining grounded and to continue providing a space for families to spend quality time together over good food and coffee.”
Successfully leveraging technology has allowed her to realise these aspirations even during a period when other F&B businesses were feeling the crunch. Reflecting on her journey, Ong advises business owners to be excited for change and learning to adapt to it. “There will always be something new – whether it be changing regulations, increase in costs, staff shortage or unruly customers – everyday has its new set of challenges so learn to thrive in such an environment.“
At the same time, she also shares the importance of pacing oneself. “Know what is important to you,” she advises. “F&B has incredibly long hours and it is easy to throw yourself in to work and get caught up in it all. Pace yourself and learn to prioritise your health, your staff’s well-being and time spent with your loved ones.”