Would you let customers charge their phones behind the bar?

By Nikkie Sutton

- Last updated on GMT

Pubco power: customers will not be able to charge their phones behind the bar of JDW pubs
Pubco power: customers will not be able to charge their phones behind the bar of JDW pubs
Following national reports that JD Wetherspoon (JDW) has banned customers from charging their phones behind the bar of its pubs, The Morning Advertiser spoke with licensees about their policies on the issue.

Licensee of the Red Lion in Cricklade, Wiltshire, Tom Gee said he wouldn’t ban customers from charging their phones but thinks it is wrong for guests to assume it’s OK to plug their phones in without asking.

Tom Gee - Licensee 3

He added: “We would never say no but I do like being asked as it just takes some common courtesy because they are using your power.

“However, we don’t tend to have people on their phones all the time here, they do tend to go outside.

“It was banned when we took the pub over 10 years ago but we changed it.”

Karen Errington

Top 50 Gastropub the Rat Inn, Anick, Northumberland, doesn’t have an issue with customers charging their phone but licensee Karen Errington has a slightly different gripe.

She said: “The thing that does annoy me is when people bring their children in with tablets and play loud music on them.”

However, Errington did say she does ask guests to put their phone on silent if it is ringing loudly, for the sake of other customers.

Children playing loud sounds on mobile devices is something Sonia Hickman at the Bull Inn, Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk, says can also be a problem.

She explained: “When the young kids get hold of the phones and watch movies on them, we have to ask them to turn it down.”

However, customers using the pub’s electricity to charge their phone is fine at the Bull, as long as they are a paying customer.

Hickman added: “We don’t mind or have an issue with it so long as they are buying something. It is a bit annoying when they come in and have a coffee but charge everything they have for two hours.

“If they just came in for a glass of tap water, we wouldn’t let them charge.

“But it’s more the people who want to plug computers in and have wires trailing through the bar, which becomes a hazard.”

Heath Ball

However, licensee of the Red Lion & Sun in Highgate, north London, Heath Ball said the answer to the problem was help customers by providing enough power sockets for them.

Frustration

He added: “We put USB plugs in everywhere so we don’t get asked and customers have access wherever they are.

“I get frustrated when I can’t charge my phone, it’s the world we live in now and you have got to have access to it for guests.”

The White Post in Rimpton, Somerset, licensee Brett Sutton lets customers charge their phones in the pub but with one stipulation.

“We just have a selection of chargers and it’s ours they must use, not theirs so we know they are legitimate!

“Mobiles are a part of us now, an extension of our right arm. We promote our Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages and promote the use of it.

“People are constantly taking photos and Facebooking or Instagramming. Social media is a huge part of what we do and if the customer is sat enjoying their food and promoting to their friends, it can only be a good thing.”

Licensee of the Royal Pier in Aberystwyth, Lee Price, echoed Sutton’s comments and said letting customers charge their phones and increase sales.

Lee Price

He added: “Mobile phones have become an integral part of modern-day life. Currently, customers are welcome to use their own chargers in power/charging points throughout our venue.

“If people hang around for longer, spend a little more at the bar, or enjoy a better guest experience, it can only add to the offering.

“But, like anything else, if it starts becoming a big problem, a fair and reasonable solution will need to be found.”

The Anchor in Wingham, Kent, does let customers charge their phone behind the bar because it is a way of life now.

Michelle Abbott

Licensee Michelle Abbott said: “We do it all the time and I don’t mind but they do expect me to have a charger for them.

“I always charge it behind the bar and I don’t mind especially as most people will ask, which is nice.”

Robin Carey

Robin Carey, licensee at the Jolly Crispin in Dudley, West Midlands, agreed with Abbott and the pub lets customers as long as they have their own chargers but he has a different issue with phones.

Not disturbing

He said: “As long as guests are spending money, it is no problem, providing they are not insulting other people.

“The only problem I have with mobile phones is staff using them while they are working.”

Earlier this year (March), JDW rolled out a new phone app​ that lets iPhone or Android phone users order food and drink, and pay for it without leaving their seat.

The Order and Pay app is designed to allow customers to “sit back and relax” while their orders are delivered directly to the table, meaning “no more queuing at the bar”.

Meanwhile last year, an East Sussex bar installed a Faraday cage in its ceiling to block mobile phone signals,​ meaning customers would have to go outside to make or receive calls.

The Gin Tub in Hove installed the cage, which is a metal screen used to block electric fields, in a bid to encourage customers to talk to each other.

Co-founder Steve Tyler told The Morning Advertiser​: “We have put a cage in our suspended ceiling so the signal can’t get in because we wanted people to sit and talk to those they are with rather than be on their phones. I think it will catch on.”

Tyler likened mobile phone users to smokers and said: “We could put the smoking area with the mobile phone area so the addicts can be in there together.”

However, the bar doesn’t prevent all communication for customers and Tyler added: “We do have telephones on the tables, so you can call other tables and people can always ring the bar if they need to speak with you.”

This year, a Bristol pub followed by banning mobile phones in a bid to let customers enjoy a pint and a chat.

Licensee of the Ship Inn, Portishead, Vic Long put the signs up on the walls of the pub, informing customers that mobiles were banned.

He told the Bristol Post ​the ban was introduced to prevent a barrage of constant phone calls and messages, and customers spending time looking at their phones.

Long added: “We ask people to adhere to the ban but we certainly wouldn’t confiscate anyone’s phone. The ban is enforced by my regular customers.

“I feel the use of phones in the pub stifles conversation. The art of a good old conversation is dying because of this new digital age.”

However, research revealed in May revealed that pubgoers would spend more cash if they could use their smartphones as a ‘digital wallet’​ to order and pay for food and drink.

CGA Peach and Zonal’s Go Technology ​report, which polled 5,000 people, found that 40% of 25 to 34-year-olds prefer to use their smartphone to order food and drink, and have items delivered to their table, rather than queue at the bar or wait for table service.

It also found that 67% of customers would spend more and buy more drinks if they could order from their mobile device, with more than three quarters (80%) happy to pay via their smartphone using recognisable and trustworthy brands, such as PayPal, Barclaycard and Apple Pay.

Survey

Would you ban customers from charging their phone at your pub?

  • Yes

    23%
  • No

    73%
  • Not sure

    4%

Related topics: News, JD Wetherspoon, Technology, Food

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