At the entrance of Buffalo’s Broadway Market—one of America’s oldest—sits Babcia’s Pierogi, a family-run business, and a local staple. Wife-and-husband duo Linda and George Lund run the outfit, and they have been purveying pierogis at the market for over four years. The business was brisk after the operation moved to the market a few years ago. And then the pandemic struck. The couple knew they had to shift their business to reach customers and adapt to the ever-changing retail landscape. Indeed, Linda and George aren’t the only ones who depend on their business—their full-time and seasonal staff, charities, and local farmers all have a lot riding on the business’s continuity.
A Challenging Year
Talk about an annus horribilis for Babcia’s and the entire restaurant industry. Restaurants have been opening and closing at the whim of lockdown orders, with sales down across the board; meanwhile, countless establishments have shuttered for good, with many on the brink. And for Babcia’s, even though it’s in a market setting—where takeout food is the norm—things are still grim: “I would say that foot traffic is down close to 90%,” laments Linda. “Our sales for the year are down 65%–70%.”
Easter and Christmas are Babcia’s bread and butter—two key celebrations and traditions for the Polish community. In a typical year, Babcia’s sells a whopping 250,000 pierogis in the days preceding Easter. With this year’s curtailed Easter activities, however, Babcia’s found itself with a backlog of 250,000 pierogis at the height of the lockdown. With hungry, loyal patrons stuck at home, they had to find new sales outlets.
As a side note, it’s worth noting Linda and George’s extraordinary generosity in giving back to the community. They always make a special Easter batch of 8,000 pierogis and donate them to the Response to Love Center, their preferred charity. It’s local, so they know they’re helping those in the community they serve.
When Babcia’s contacted Sekure Payment Experts, several challenges were top of mind. Payment-processing fees were eating into the bottom line, as were costs associated with third-party delivery apps. Moreover, eCommerce capabilities were non-existent. Specifically, Linda and George were looking to achieve the following objectives:
- Reduce payment-processing costs
- Accept online sales to facilitate curbside pickup
- Increase contactless payments to provide a hygienic experience
Linda and George reached out to Sekure Payment Experts in March 2020 after realizing they had to pivot or perish. Linda had concerns about changing over to a new system, but they were quickly eased: “[The experience] was very pleasant, very personal. It made for a very easy transition.” Shortly after going over the options with a Payment Expert, Babcia’s had its new POS system and was ready to roll. Sekure’s first order of business was to scour its extensive network of partnerships to find the lowest rates and optimal solutions to address Babcia’s pain points.
Babcia’s old system lacked online functionality, which hindered its ability to tap burgeoning online sales and curbside pickup. The new POS, however, allows the business to accept wholesale and retail orders as well as handle restaurant and curbside sales and online ordering. As Linda puts it, “the new system is “definitely a godsend.”
Now when customers order online, a ticket appears in the kitchen and pops out a receipt. Everything is contactless—orders, payment, and pickup. Moreover, customers can add specific requests when they order. For example, if they want curbside or fully contactless, they can add a note. “If they want the order in the trunk, they can say that. Pull up, and open the trunk. No contact. A very popular request.” Linda refers to these as “drive-thru” orders, and along with curbside pickup, they have been a real boon for Babcia’s.
Right off the bat, Babcia’s reduced its payment-processing rates by 50% after switching to Sekure. Likewise, the business is also making more direct-to-consumer sales and has thereby reduced its reliance on third-party delivery apps, which take a cut.
Likewise, since implementing its new POS system in March, overall sales have increased, and the trend is encouraging. (For an idea of the headwinds they faced, it took four months to unload the 250,000 pierogis they usually sell by Easter.) Contactless transactions now account for 80% of sales, up from about 50%, while cash transactions have dropped 30% and now account for roughly 20% of transactions.
In terms of online sales, these pierogi peddlers have gone from having zero eCommerce capabilities to seeing online, and curbside orders account for 20% of sales, and they’re looking to grow this figure. And while Babcia’s was previously limited to selling during regular business hours, now they can sell online 24/7 through the website—a huge plus. For Linda, the process has been seamless: “Sekure was awesome in getting us off the ground with online orders. It definitely was a lifesaver for us.”
Brighter Days Ahead
Challenges persist, but Linda and George are optimistic that the worst is behind them. In the meantime, they’re just going to keep adapting until life returns to normal. Some things will remain constant, however: Babcia’s will keep making everything from scratch and using the freshest local ingredients they can source. Hopefully, 2021 will see them churn out the usual 1 million pierogis and 8,000 pounds of sauerkraut, along with other Polish specialties like duck blood soup.
And, in case you were wondering, babcia is Polish for grandmother. The business’s name is a shout-out to babcia Eugenia, Linda’s grandmother, whose traditional recipe is still used to this day. So, yes, these are your grandma’s pierogis. But in this case, that’s a good thing.
So next time you find yourself in Buffalo, pop into Babcia’s and taste the delicious goodness they’re cooking up. Linda’s recommendation is the pizzarogi, although you might want to start with the bestselling traditional farmer’s cheese pierogi and progress from there. That’s the one that started it all.Helping merchants like Babcia’s Pierogi is what drives us at Sekure. If you want to find out how we can help your small business, drop us a line. We’d love to hear from you.