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Coffee Republic Brews Up RFID Loyalty Cards

The British coffee chain is issuing NFC-enabled smart cards, provided by sQuid, that customers can use to pay for food and drink, as well as earn discounts.
By Claire Swedberg
Dec 17, 2008British coffee house chain Coffee Republic is employing a Near Field Communications (NFC) contactless loyalty card system from sQuid to reduce lines and gain customer loyalty at three of its London locations.

Coffee Republic operates approximately 200 coffee shops, most within the United Kingdom. The restaurants sell coffee and other beverages, as well as snacks and sandwiches. Customers typically pay by cash or credit card, but the payment process is time-consuming, says Coffee Republic's general manager, Aruna Withane.

Coffee Republic's restaurant in the Bluewater Shopping Centre

"One of the problems we've had in our shops," Withane says, "is that if you walk into the shop and take time to order and pay for the transaction, the wait can be long." Most customers don't carry small change, he notes, and have to pay for their food—such as a cup of coffee that costs £2 ($3)—with large bills, or via credit card.

Not only is that system time-consuming, it can also be expensive, says Adam Smith, sQuid's managing director. A business pays a fee to credit card companies for each credit card transaction, he explains, as well as a fee to its bank when money received from cash transactions is deposited into its bank account, and the labor time spent counting and depositing the cash at the end of each day.

Following a four-month trial earlier this year with Barclays Bank, Coffee Republic began installing point-of-sale terminals that accept contactless payments from customers using the OneTouch Barclaycard, which contains the same 13.56 MHz passive RFID technology found in the Oyster Card used by the Transport for London for train rides. Customers can use Barclays contactless credit card at many of Coffee Republic’s London restaurants as well as at other participating retailers. Withane indicates his company will continue to use the system, and promote it in the stores, though it found that the system held shortcomings for some of its customers.

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