When Maria Knowles ditched a career in corporate IT to set up street food vendor Makatcha, it was the buzz of the sector that drew her in.
“I did my research by eating my way through all the London markets,” says Maria. “Street food has evolved so much in the last 10 years, it’s amazing. But everybody is doing the same kind of stuff. I wanted to bring something different, and I decided on Indonesian dish rendang.”
Makatcha, which Maria runs with her husband John, has been in business for around two and a half years. It made its debut at Barclaycard presents BST Hyde Park in 2015 and was back again this year selling street food to the masses.
But what’s the secret sauce? Planning, effective marketing, detailed research – and a winning payments strategy that helps everything in the business jump to the beat.
For a mobile street food business like Maria’s, that naturally involves being able to take payments on the move. Without mobile payment terminals, the business wouldn’t be able to deliver the experience its customers are looking for.
Play to the crowd
The reason payments are so important is because they play a large part in keeping customers happy. Get them wrong and you have frustrated customers and an experience that is distinctly off-key.
“People are paying money, and you have to respect that,” says Maria. “I make sure I give them a really good experience. You have to look after them.”
What that involves will vary among businesses, but Maria highlighted three key points:
- Speed. For street food vendors, customers tend to be concentrated in short periods of time and, at big events especially, numbers can be high. Keeping queues flowing is hugely important, not just to the customer experience but because long queues can make people go elsewhere. “You have to be able to take contactless,” says Maria.
- Reliability. When you’re expecting a large number of transactions in a short space of time, the reliability of the mobile terminal is absolutely crucial. Downtime can frustrate customers and sap profits. “I had another terminal provider before Barclaycard, and it didn’t always work,” says Maria. “You’ve got to be able to take card payments when people want to make them.” Barclaycard research backs this up – 24% of people have walked away from a purchase in the past 12 months because they couldn’t pay by card.1
- Choice. At Barclaycard presents BST Hyde Park, Makatcha allowed customers to pay by contactless, Chip & PIN or cash. Maria says that choice not only improves the experience but can also help grow the business. “Barclaycard has gained us customers. It’s very important to offer a range of payments. You could lose customers if you don’t.”
Check out what Maria has to say about the importance of contactless for her business.
Stay in tune with your competitors
There are other elements that have helped breed success for Makatcha, but one of Maria’s top tips is to talk to your peers and get as much guidance as possible.
“Traders talk to each other. It means you can get advice and learn about what other people are doing,” she says. “This gives you the ability to make informed judgements.”
It’s also an area that your payment provider might be able to help with.
“Look at the competition and how they are building their strategy,” says Joseph Jessup, Small Business Segment Director, Global Payment Acceptance, Barclaycard. “And talk to your payment provider. If that’s Barclaycard, we can tell you how we see other similar businesses doing things.”