Coffee, cake and contactless cards - Robert Harris

With a background in retail banking, café owner Sohel Chimbeiwala knew first hand how contactless payment technology could help a business like his.

Sohel has owned Robert Harris inside Whitcoulls at Botany Town Centre since 2014, one of 42 Robert Harris franchised cafés around New Zealand. He’s a hands-on owner and when the need arises, Sohel can be found behind the coffee machine brewing flat whites or in the kitchen washing dishes. 

Being located inside Whitcoulls means the café has to maintain the store’s hours, which is a mixed blessing.

“We don’t work long hours – we open at 8am and close at 5pm, 7pm on Fridays. Although we aren’t able to open the times we want, we aren’t paying the high rents that other cafés pay, so it balances out,” says Sohel.

It was only two months after opening the café that Sohel introduced contactless payment capability; the first Robert Harris franchisee to adopt the technology.

“Having a history in banking and accounts administration, I knew how useful the technology was. As most of our transactions are under $80, I knew it would be easy for the customers to use. And as with any café operation, there are high pressure times when queues form. The ‘tap and go’ capability means the queue moves a lot faster. It also means we don’t carry as much cash,” he says.

Sohel’s café serves around 100 people every day, swelling to 200 in the weekend, serving the same coffee and 'almost' the same food as other Robert Harris cafés, with a few exceptions.

“We are located inside a large bookstore and next to a childcare centre, which means we have a lot of children and families coming in.  So we’ve expanded our menu to cater for children, with mini muffins and other treats kids love, including jelly.  We also have a special breakfast menu for children that the other cafés in the chain don’t offer.

With this mix of clientele, being able to take orders and payments as quickly as possible is key.  Our customers don’t want to spend time at the till, they want to sit and enjoy their food and drinks, or get out of the café as quickly as possible.  Offering ‘tap and go’ means our customers have more time to enjoy their experience with us."

Using Sohel’s business as an example, a presentation on contactless payments was made at Robert Harris’ recent annual conference, resulting in a number of other franchisees introducing the technology, and others likely to follow suit.


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