Ian Reynolds-Young meets Televend’s Zoran Margic, the CupSense Product Manager, at Host Milano.
CupSense is Televend’s AI-based professional coffee solution for real-time coffee quantity and quality monitoring. Essentially, it’s a telemetry product, principally aimed at roasters and coffee shop owners. From the outset, Zoran Margic has been at the helm of the project. With the emergence of telemetry solutions that embrace ‘traditional’ espresso machines, Televend insist that their product is ‘unique’ and Zoran is the ideal man to substantiate that claim.
So, what makes CupSense so different?
Zoran begins at the beginning: ‘CupSense was four years in development’, he says, ‘during which time we’ve learned a lot about coffee!’
‘CupSense gives our customers complete control of both the quantity and the technical quality of coffee preparation’, he says. ‘Take coffee roasters for example. They invest a lot of money and effort in their determination to deliver a high-quality product and with CupSense, they can see how their coffee is being prepared for the consumer. It’s a step that has been missing, but now we are providing it. Our promise to our customers is that we will provide them with the truth, with the caveat that sometimes the truth is good news, but sometimes – it isn’t…’
‘CupSense means that the information customers are working with is no longer subjective, it’s objective. The upshot is that roasters now have a completely different relationship with their customers. At any given time, both parties can see exactly the same data. In that sense, it’s a genuine game-changer. It is the pathway to consistency, to delivering the same, perfect cup of coffee every time, for every customer. This benefits the shop owner, because what consumers crave is consistency, and the roaster, because their brand values can be safe-guarded as never before. Individual coffee shops can therefore become ambassadors for the brand, often leading to enhanced terms and conditions.’
‘Sure, we have some competitors in this fledgling market. However, as far as we know, CupSense is unique, because it is based on data that we acquire from the machine, it does not rely on data that the machine itself provides to another device. And because CupSense is universal, it can be installed in any type – and in fact in any make – of coffee machine. It collects and combines all the data from disparate machines and stores it in the cloud.’
‘The solutions provided by machine manufacturers and other third parties largely relies on the buttons on the machine that get pressed, but we didn’t want to develop our system in that way, because we found out that in some places, baristas are very skilled at fooling that kind of system.’
I raise eyebrows at this apparent slur on baristas. Zoran notices this and he smiles. ‘Look’, he says. ‘In our experience, there are two kinds of barista. Firstly, there are, let’s call them ‘the serious ones’. These individuals are thrilled by the extra information we can provide them with, they are proud of their work and they are more than happy for it to be monitored. They see it as an opportunity to prove how good they are at their job. Previously, they had only their gut feelings as a reference point. They’d make a coffee and think, ‘that was good’, but with CupSense they can check the data and say for certain, ‘hey that was really good’. As for the other kind of barista, when we install the system, they quit!’
In common with the rogue ‘tied’ houses of the pub trade, there are some unscrupulous coffee operations out there that will supplement their purchases from the roaster with a cheaper coffee. The damage this can do to a brand cannot be underestimated. ‘CupSense can identify when this is happening’, Zoran says. ‘The first indicator of course is the quantity ordered versus the drinks delivered. Also, the parameters of preparation change, as each blend has different characteristics. If a barista changes the settings on the grinder, for instance, to accommodate the illicit coffee, CupSense sees the changes. We can also identify when the parameters of preparation begin to slip. For example, CupSense sees when the temperature is dropping and sends an alert to the machine owner – often the roaster – so they can despatch a technician or a quality manager to the venue, as appropriate. It could be that there’s a new barista, or a trainee working there, and training is required.
‘So, it’s accurate to say that we provide full control over the coffee that is served to the consumer. It’s been our experience so far that access to these additional controls can boost sales by anything from 20 to 40 percent. That’s the attraction, right there: using CupSense increases sales, and that’s a fact.
‘Second, and very important, by monitoring quality, roasters – and the owners of coffee shop chains – can also ensure that there is uniform quality of preparation in every outlet. Customers can expect an identical coffee experience regardless of which of the brand’s outlets they are visiting. You might say ‘it’s the ‘McDonaldisation’ of coffee’, but in a good way, because it builds consumer trust in the brand and encourages loyalty.’
Not surprisingly, the early adopters of CupSense have been coffee roasters, particularly in southern Europe, because the business model in that region is often based upon roasters providing a machine for ‘free’, in the expectation that they get a healthy return on their investment from on-going sales of coffee. When customers use rogue coffee or add to their legitimate stock by buying the brand at their local supermarket, the numbers simply don’t stack up. The reaction in Italy, for instance, is summed-up by Lorenzo Ponzuoli, CEO of Caffe Santos: ‘CupSense’s revolutionary platform for coffee machines has provided us with full transparency of every cup served. We’ve been able to ensure top quality without compromises, minimise our maintenance costs and protect the brand we are well known for.’ That says it all…
‘We are working on bringing the same taste, the same quality, across the board’, Zoran says. ‘Until now, roasters have control only until the beans leave their warehouse. They have had zero control beyond this point, but with CupSense, they know exactly what their end customer is drinking. That is the prime message that we will be taking to the marketplace in the coming months. Every single unit is fully tested before it is despatched, and once it is fitted, it will work for years and years.’
Starting from… Soon? Get in touch with the team to find out more here.
For more on Televend on PV see here