In Trinidad and Tobago lives the chain of bakery retail outlets called Café Bean Limited, where we interviewed one of the founders who is going to share his experience developing an outdoor business model during difficult times on the worldwide level.
What is your business about?
It’s a chain of bakery retail outlets and distribution, a multi-faceted company that started as a chain of retail bakeries. Currently, we have 9 to 10 stores, and we offer typically what a bakery has except for bread. Because we do a grab-and-go model with usually, it is in the city center serviced in food traffic. Based on the culture we have here in Trinidad Tobago, usually, most of the people in the city center are there for work or traversing to and from home.
While they’re there, they usually grab a quick bite or lunch. They would come to us for this, but if they want bread, they would have to go to the supermarket or bakery. We do not have doors, it is a street-paced business where you just stay right up and request what you want to eat and drink. We do not have doors because it decreases the friction and secondly, it increases the conversion probability.
Why did you start your business, how was the beginning and when did you start?
We started in early 2017. Two people started. We worked in the energy industry, which is near 50% of the industry in Trinidad Tobago since 2014 after our graduation.
In that year, the loyal prices tax went from 90 to 80 USD per barrel to straight down to its lowest at $22 per barrel. A significant fraction of the economy almost disappeared overnight. We already knew the layoffs and contractions are coming. And having worked in the city centers we knew this opportunity with the first location in the capital city.
Within the first stage of opening, we sold out in two hours and we realized that we had something, and from there it was scaling; from a lean startup perspective, it was a lot of “per mayor” learn. Because let’s say about 80% of the products that we tried throughout the period, we don’t longer do. But we still wanted to give it to the market to see how the market responds and make sure that we control our fair treat per seasonality or the way how is chosen to assist the customer, etc. So that’s how we would group in this particular market.
Now our key competitor edge is that our systems include Loyverse. For instance, now, our incomes are significant because of several reasons: The COVID supply chain logistic problem and the Ukraine - Russia war. So that’s putting upward price pressure and that was almost 50% just this year and margins are up 30% but we haven’t raised the prices.
So the priming way to maintain a margin, make adjustments in other places to accommodate the same prices. Because of the system and the model we just described, we were able to maintain I guess, a ratio, and operated in margins that none of our competitors could maintain because they don’t have technical backgrounds. I guess we're fortunate enough to make it out on the other end. That’s kind of why we started, that’s what made us into what we are today. Our model is very applicable to third markets, especially because of the price points. Just to give an idea of how cheap we are:
In local currency, a cup of Starbucks coffee costs 30 TT dollars, and a cup of our coffee costs 5 TT dollars. Let’s say an average Starbucks pastry would cost 25 dollars TT and an average pastry with us would cost 8-9 TT dollars. It’s specially tailored to a more accessible price point which is certainly something that makes us popular here.
How did you find us and in which way did Loyverse help you?
We found Loyverse online and started using it in 2019; we truly appreciate the support they gave to us. That’s what caught us the most. One of the best things about Loyverse is the support; most of the time, companies in the US, don’t give support to the Caribbean market, and even if they do, most of the groups they’re focused on even in the Caribbean market, Miami and Latin America, are Spanish speaking countries. There are a lot of English-speaking countries in the Caribbean like Jamaica and Trinidad, but their markets do not get much attention.
I guess that because the population is less than about 5 to 10 million people and the average GDP per capita is around 10-12 thousand. There's just not enough purchasing power. Usually only the last one or two will give support to the Caribbean. So that's the number one reason we will go to Loyverse, the support.
Which products of Loyverse are you using?
We are currently using the paid version of Loyverse. We have activated the subscription of Employee Management and Advanced Inventory. Lately, we started exploring Integrations service as we are aiming to get an inventory prediction report.
What are your wishes to improve our service?
I wish Loyverse would start an operation or an affiliation operation to help businesses here to overcome a knowledge gap and technological divide. Some of the bigger names in Trinidad Tobago are multinationals like Starbucks, burger king, KFC the MacDonald's Of course as franchises they would use their probationary or whatever system they use. However, for the none multinationals who would not receive any guidance, there’s a tremendous opportunity to adopt any Point of Sales provided to the local market.
It’s an open field here and perhaps most of English speaking Caribbean because there is just no one, the market is too small. That’s why we use Loyverse because we get support except for others. With you, we can increase the conversion rate here, it’s not marketing but it is more hands-on. Because people may see it as other business wonders and usually business owners are not that technical, I would say. 98% are not technical at all.
They might see it and like it, but the friction from seeing to conversion would just be too much, they would need someone to onboard them, pitch it to them, and pilot their existent location to show the advantages and how easy it is. I think there can be certainly within the thousand of adoptions in Trinidad to possibly the low 5 figures or 10 thousand just in Trinidad because they need it. Right now most of the bookkeeping, tracking, and sales records are done by the head. Most people have active smartphones with data plans and the internet because they are very addicted to social media.
So the infrastructure to move to a digital POS system is there, is to get them to adopt it.
Thank you very much for your time.
Edited by ArturoGarcia