As pubs gear towards opening outdoors on Monday and then indoors later in the month, Brian Stormont discovers technology will be a key driver of sales as licensed premises get back to business.
In pubs for time immemorial cash has been king, but that is set to change as ordering your drink of choice when bars to reopen won’t see any folding stuff change hands.
These days it’s certainly not unusual to see patrons – particularly younger clientele – using a contactless card, Apple Pay or Google Pay on their smartphones to pay for drinks.
And as we move into the “new normal” with regards to going out for a pint while maintaining social distancing, these options plus ordering apps will be driving things as businesses look for ways of continuing to operate during and after the coronavirus pandemic.
While people may want to head out to enjoy a drink, they may not be entirely comfortable with being in close proximity to other bar patrons, queuing at a bar or even visiting the toilet if a premises is busy.
Installing a purchasing app is the perfect way for a bar owner or manager to take any queuing or concerns over serving people out of the equation.
And using them is easy. You simply enter your table number, browse the menu or bar tariff, decide what you would like, order it on screen and pay with your credit or debit card, Apple Pay or Android Pay.
Your drinks and / or food will then be brought to your table. If you’re just out for a drink, when you’re ready for another you tap on the app.
David Rankine, business development director at Dundee-based Hungrrr which has created an app food ordering system, believes apps were always the future for bar and restaurant owners and that the coronavirus outbreak has only served to speed that process along.
He said: “I think it is the future. I was already starting to take seed prior to Covid. This has just literally sped the process up and forced some places that maybe would have resisted a little bit longer or not even thought about it all, into a position where they are having to look at these solutions to keep up with the government as to what the best practices are to avoid social contact.”
The introduction of ordering and payment apps in pubs could in fact prove beneficial for customers and proprietors, cutting down on waiting times and streamlining the process.
David added: “You don’t have to queue at the bar, you don’t have to wait for someone to come along and take your order – it’s all at your fingertip whether you use the web or an app.
“We offer web and app solutions for venues and that is where the user has a choice whether they download the app or use the web portal to order. It’s all at the fingertips of the customer, it’s on their own devices.
“There is also no need for a bar owner to organise split bills for bigger groups which always causes problems. It’s about the group or an individual using a device and ordering direct for that table. It’s at their leisure so they don’t feel under pressure trying to remember what everyone wanted with a line of people tutting behind.
“It’s all about ease and about speeding things up.”
As you would expect as bars make plans to reopen initially outdoors on Monday, Hungrrr has been busy dealing with businesses keen to get the technology up and running.
“We have seen a torrent of enquiries straight to us and it has been a great catalyst for the industry for ourselves and others in the field,” added David. “We are all reporting a huge increase in enquiries and sales from this.
“For some businesses it’s been a hard, tough time but for us it has been a good time to be in this market place and help businesses that are struggling to keep up with technology and get this into place.
“Some businesses maybe haven’t done it quite in time yet as we are getting enquiries from some now just starting to think about it, despite them potentially going to be opening this weekend. From March onwards we have seen a massive increase in enquiries and landed client rate.”
Owners and managers of pubs who are new to ordering apps have nothing to worry about as the system is very easy and the providers, such as Hungrrr, are there to help them along the way.
David revealed: “They get a small device from us as part of the package when they come on board which actually centralises the orders when they come into the business and allows them to accept or reject the orders.
“That decide manages it and if we have a connection with their till system then on a lot not occasions it will automatically send that to their till and print out at the bar or in the kitchen, so it actually streamlines their whole order process.
“Some of our clients don’t have till systems that we currently work with so they just manually put the order in, but a lot of them are treating that as if someone has come up to the bar anyway and placed the order face to face.”
We give venues their own apps and systems which are powered by Hungrrr, so the businesses have their own branded app.
David Rankine, Hungrrr.
The cost to businesses bringing this technology in is always a frequently asked question, but the outlay for the use of the Hungrrr app, for instance, is relatively inexpensive for pub owners.
“We give venues their own apps and systems which are powered by Hungrrr, so the businesses have their own branded app,” said David.
“We’ve got packages that range from £99 a month upwards depending on what they want. Given the fact that the majority of the other platforms are all commission-based they are paying anything from seven to 10% plus, or if they are on the aggregator system like Deliveroo, Just Eat or Uber Eats those guys are all 20 to 30% plus. But we are a flat fee every month so everything they make is their own.
“If they do volume, which they will start to do through this, then it will very quickly begin to become very expensive should they go the route of a commission-based system.
“That is where we are doing very well in the market place.”
While more and more businesses will move towards ordering apps, customers, too, have a key part to play by embracing and using the apps that are available in bars, pubs and restaurants.
“I think the fact that Covid has come along and basically enforced a new future in how we do things, you are going to find that all age groups will embrace it, they will have to embrace it as they have no other choice,” added David.
“Venues are putting these things in place and saying this is the only way you can place an order because they are having to follow strict guidelines from local and national government.”
And David doesn’t anticipate people experiencing problems using the apps to order in pubs – like older people for instance.
He said: “It’s very much a case that the majority of the older generation have iphones and smartphones in their hands so they are used to that element of things. It’s just a slightly different way of placing an order. Maybe they wouldn’t have defaulted it to prior to Covid, but I think it is a case that everyone is having to embrace it no matter what.
“We have to remember these are the guys who led the way in all this technology coming through. Some people will take bad with it because there are technophobes all around in every age group. Ultimately this is where Hungrrr excels. Some of our competitor do web only or only do apps, Hungrrr as a system gives the business owner the option to cover all the bases are for all the customers coming in.”
Fife publican Lee Murray, general manager of the Laurel Bank Hotel in Markinch, also has an app available for pubs to use.
“I have taken over franchise for QTap in Scotland which is a contactless ordering and payment system,” he said.
“Basically it’s an app that’s on your phone allows you to sit outside in the beer garden and order your drinks and food from your phone. Everything will be delivered to your table all paid for without touching anybody.
“I am trying to get it out into the industry and a few people are already signed up. It’s important to let people know that there are contactless options out there for publicans to make their job easier when they open up.
“Putting the app in place so that system is there is not just for a few weeks it is forever.”
Cut the contact
Another solution available on the market comes from Wi5 which aims to cut the contact between customers and staff. They also build specific ordering apps which mean people don’t have to leave their table to get served.
Although restrictions are being relaxed, there is still a real danger from the virus so technology can play a huge part in allowing businesses to trade and the economy to recover, while people stay safe.
Wi5 is an order and payment system which can be accessed by customer from their smartphones, tablets or laptops.
Wi5 founder Prask Sutton believes that pubs could in fact increase their productivity as a result of not having to pay attention to who is needing served, handling cash or providing a bill.
Prask says as companies make money off the number of pints that are poured, slowing the process means that they fail to maximise capacity. Technology helps businesses increase table turn and make more money as it takes the payment step out of the equation.