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Easier, leaner and cleaner

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The tray-return robots which trundle past the tables - sometimes stopping with a cheery greeting - have resulted in more customers clearing their trays. So, while other outlets require at least five cleaners, including dishwashers, the "productive coffeeshop" requires just three.

EACH night, after the coffeeshop where he worked closed for the day, floor manager Zhao Chun Yu, 34, used to spend an hour carefully counting the cash takings from each stall.

But at Koufu's Happy Hawkers branch in Tampines, cash payments are made into automatic deposit boxes instead of being manually put into a till.

When Mr Zhao does his rounds at the end of the day, the counting has already been done by the machine.

"Now it's much faster," says Mr Zhao, who now takes 30 minutes to close up for the night.

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Mr Zhao, who has been working in Koufu for five years, appreciates how the "productive coffeeshop" at Tampines is easier to oversee.

Granted, like the stallholders themselves, he did have to learn about the computer systems in place so that he could help customers with basic troubleshooting. "Some uncles, aunties, we have to teach them how it works," he says, adding that a common problem is customers putting coins in the slots for notes.

But for serious issues, he can always call tech support, he adds.

Technology has also made things easier for the cleaners he supervises. For instance, the tray-return robots which trundle past the tables - sometimes stopping with a cheery greeting - have resulted in more customers clearing their trays.

The most he has to do is occasionally remind customers about the difference between the robots for trays from halal and non-halal stalls.

Senior manager Andy Chua, 38, agrees: "The cleaners are more cheerful because they have the robot to help them."

Including the Tampines branch, Mr Chua oversees six Koufu outlets in the area.

He notes that other outlets require at least five cleaners, including dishwashers, whereas the productive coffeeshop requires just three.

Apart from their robo-helpers, the cleaners' jobs are also made easier by a compact food waste digester which compresses and removes water from the waste, making it lighter and easier to dispose of.

Koufu plans to take this a step further by converting the waste to fertiliser, and putting it to good use locally, such as by offering it to the Town Council.

For his part, Mr Chua finds that with the productive coffeeshop's cleaner environment, he rarely encounters hygiene issues during his spot checks.

This frees up supervisors and managers to focus on the bigger picture, he says: "We have more time to concentrate on food quality, variety, how to boost sales."

Brought to you by The Future Economy Council

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