Helping Cafeterias Find Their Footing After the Pandemic: A Conversation with OLB Group

As the coronavirus pandemic started making its way across the world, many businesses were visibly affected. We all know retailers that shut their doors and began selling their goods online. Or gyms that began offering classes and workouts through Zoom. And as restrictions have eased in some areas, many of these businesses have tried to come back to their in-person roots while maintaining a new online presence.

But there are also places where the impact has been less visible. When offices were closed and employees turned to remote work to stay connected, the cafeterias that served those workers also shut down.

Once employees began to return, how could these physical businesses – often used by employees as gathering places – reopen safely and continue to serve employees?

Like so many other types of businesses, the solution for many has been to move to mobile and online solutions. This is according to Ronny Yakov, CEO of OLB Group. OLB provides cloud-based omnichannel payment solutions to a variety of merchants – including businesses in the hospitality space, such as cafeterias and restaurants.

Yakov said that many of its cafeteria customers were an “old school” type of business – interested in physical point-of-sale solutions but reluctant to adopt mobile and online solutions. The pandemic changed all that by requiring them to adapt and embrace technology that supported a more contactless way of operating.

“The employees are coming back to work, but they don’t want to concentrate everybody in one place,” Yakov said.

“So now they spread out the concentration by ordering online and just picking up their order in front of the cafeteria. They can also schedule their orders; you can order in the morning and have it ready at a specific time.”

In addition to helping them operate safely, implementing online solutions has exposed these businesses to other benefits, Yakov said. For example, they can now use mobile marketing capabilities to easily run specials and promote products. And they have new ways to make ordering even speedier and more convenient for their users. For example, someone who eats the same sandwich every day for lunch can simply pull up previous orders and repeat them, reducing the steps needed to place an order.

“We’re able to help them transition quickly and take advantage of things like mobile marketing and other tools that they probably haven’t even thought of previously, as well as contactless payments for safety and all these other types of solutions,” Yakov said.

“It at least points them in the right direction to regenerate revenue and find the path to profitability.”

Cafeterias are not the only market segment where OLB has seen increased interest. The pandemic has resulted in a “correction” in business, Yakov said, where merchants that previously may not have seen the need for a web or ecommerce presence are changing their minds. Franchisors and stadium owners, for example, have approached OLB looking for more visibility into activity across pieces of their businesses.

In the past, the company used to see about 65% of its business from traditional point-of-sale customers with the remaining 35% or so coming from ecommerce. Now the split is more 50/50, Yakov said.

Operating as a payment facilitator has helped enabled OLB to act quickly to deploy new features across its platform, he said.

“Because our core business is software, we are the company that is doing the risk underwriting and everything in house – the support, the hardware integration. We can also board a merchant and they can practically be running transactions on the same day. Those synergies between the entities are what made us to decide to be a payment facilitator,” Yakov said.

OLB Group currently serves about 8,500 merchants and is planning multiple acquisitions in the coming months. The company has a goal to convert 25% of traditional merchants in its acquired portfolios to its payment facilitator model, because of the ease of managing the business, including merchant activation and transaction monitoring, under that model, Yakov said.