How to Maintain Charm in a High-Tech World

April 9, 2017

You know the type of place. A staple in your hometown that’s looked the same and served the identical, delicious plate of chili-cheese fries, Coke float, or bagel with a schmear of cream cheese your entire lifetime. The owners know all their regulars by name and welcome every new customer like it’s the first 70-degree day after a long, cold winter.

Ted & Wally’s ice cream parlor, located in Omaha, NE, is one such institution. (As their website states, “it’s an Omaha tradition.”)  Opened in 1984, current owners Joe Pittack and his sister Jeanne Ohira (both born and bred in Nebraska’s largest city) bought the business from its original proprietors 15 years ago, after scooping ice cream themselves for four years. “They wanted to keep it in the employee family,” says Joe, sharing that they received a personal loan from the former owners in order to make the purchase.

Located in Omaha’s Old Market (which houses only locally-owned, small businesses) since 2001, Pittack says that despite moving locations and adding outdoor seating, “everything is the same,” right down to the menu, tables and chairs, and countertops, which were moved from the old site. In keeping with tradition, Ted & Wally’s ice cream base is made from scratch, using a family recipe containing eggs, milk, sugar, and cream. Sticking with the “in-the-family” theme, many of its ice cream ingredients are sourced from local family-owned groceries, bakeries, orchards, and farms. The ice cream is even frozen in old-school White Mountain ice cream freezers using ice and rock salt. (Doesn’t that remind you of your childhood days?)

Key to retaining that old-fashioned magic, however, is smarter operations discreetly enabled by technology. Ted & Wally’s had been using an old push-button register to ring up all its customers — charming, but laborious. But with customers’ chocolate cones melting as they waited in line to pay, Pittack decided to upgrade his POS system to Clover. Using two Minis and one Mobile, Ted & Wally’s gets ice cream devotees in and out efficiently. The Mobile, in particular, is a line buster, says Pittack, explaining that customers no longer have to put up with a bottleneck at checkout. “Now we can run multiple credit cards at a time; before we could only do one.”

The small size of Clover devices also helps create a better experience for customers. “We’re handing cones and money across [the countertop] and we need that space,” says Pittack, explaining that a large checkout device isn’t efficient for Ted & Wally’s.

Customizable apps have also freed up time in Pittack’s busy schedule. Previously, he’d spend an entire work day processing employee timecards (workers’ shifts marked by a punch clock) and divvying up tips. Using the app Time Clock by Homebase, the job is now complete in half-an-hour, carving out valuable time that he can devote to making personal connections with customers. Other apps are enticing, too, like Clover Rewards which allows loyal customers to earn free perks they love – while giving merchants greater visibility into their best customers’ buying habits. Rewards enables all staff – not just the owner, who knows all the regulars personally – to recognize VIP customers instantly and treat them as such.

Pittack loves Homebase and the convenience it offers, and he knows that his employees will appreciate it as well, especially since it enables them to switch shifts easily. However, he struggles with getting them to sign up via email invitation. “It’s great, but you guys gotta take action,” he says with a chuckle.

Since Ted & Wally’s maintains its vintage look and product, the parlor’s customers probably won’t notice its new POS system. But they’re certain to take note of Ted & Wally’s outstanding customer service — an old-time offering that’s much appreciated by anyone receiving it.


Ted & Wally’s Clover Story