Tech feature

Tech feature – Is tech still important post-Covid?

By Gary Lloyd contact

- Last updated on GMT

New age: tech has been vital during Covid but will this be built upon going forward?
New age: tech has been vital during Covid but will this be built upon going forward?

Related tags: Technology, Training, Finance, Pubco + head office, Multi-site pub operators, Branding + marketing, Cellar management

The use of technology has been seen as something to fear according to plenty of Hollywood movies.

From the unstoppable Cyberdyne Systems Model 101 as played by Arnold Schwarzenegger in The Terminator​ to the insubordinate computer Hal 9000 on board the Discovery One spacecraft in 2001: A Space Odyssey​, technology has a grip on the human psyche when allowed to run out of control.

But if you ask pub operators, many will say tech simply takes away the more mundane aspects of pub life and allows staff to take a more hands-on approach of being available for customers – and that’s just for starters.

Since Covid began, pubs have been forced to evolve quickly. Aside from the great work in improving outdoor spaces and potentially adding food offers, there has been an increase in pubs using technology from order-at-table apps and online booking systems to entertainment additions and cellar management tools.

These advances have also helped in avoiding physical contact with others thereby reducing Covid transmission touchpoints and have made licensees’ lives easier.

“Since introducing more technology, staff have been able to interact with customers more and the feedback has been great,” says sales and marketing manager Laura Gorf of Elevens Bar and Grill in Cardiff, which was a finalist in the Best for Sport category of last year’s Great British Pub Awards.

“People are saying ‘your staff have been really friendly and helpful’, they’ve been going to talk to them at the tables and communicating a lot more than they would do stood behind a bar pouring out pints.”

During the pandemic, Elevens introduced ME&U-branded tech at its tables that allows customers to use NFC (near-field communication) tech from their mobile devices to order and pay for food and drinks, and there is also the more standard QR code so people can make orders with needing to turn on NFC capabilities.

“It’s an online order service rather than an app that you would have to download. It has proved very popular with customers. It’s huge in Australia and has come over more recently to the UK.”

Gorf explains during the pandemic the bar brought in Access Collins as its bookings system after realising the days of people coming in and flooding the bar were on hold – at least for the short term.

The system allows Elevens to hire out the entire bar now and has allowed the recruitment of a host to greet customers and show them to their tables.

Gorf says: “It’s proved to be really helpful for us since pandemic and it's something that we've kept in even after restrictions have been lifted. We haven’t gone back to our service as before. The system is providing a much nicer experience for not only the customers but the staff as well.”

Elevens’ technology doesn’t end there because it is a sports bar and has 20 screens across the site that can show up to eight different broadcasts. The business has divided the pub into four different areas and its sound tech means it can put different commentary on in the various zones, or music if wants.

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Customer attraction and retention is key and is driven through customer service and satisfaction

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With Audeohost in your venue, customers know that they can get the complete picture when it comes to your venue operation.

Audeohost focuses on connecting your customers in real time to any commentary for what is currently on your screens.   

Your entertainment overhead from TVs to must have multiple sports subscriptions, music and other visual entertainment add up and is a cost that is harder to offset.

Through your customer’s phone, Audeohost delivers live TV commentary for each programme on display.

For example, your TVs are currently showing the news, a football match and a horse race live onscreen and there is music playing in the background to set the ambiance. Several customers have asked to hear the football commentary, another wants the race commentary while several more want to tune into a developing news story happening in front of their eyes.

With the Audeohost platform installed at your venue, customers can download our easy to use free app to their phone, connect to wi-fi and listen to any live commentary they choose from the app menu.

Audeohost’s low cost gives venue operators an invaluable tool to help increase footfall and customer dwell time, giving time back to your staff to build better customer relationships and more opportunities to sell.

Visit www.audeohost.com​ for more information.

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The show must go on

The Phoenix Arts Club in Soho, central London, which hosts live performances and is often the hangout for stage actors in the theatre district and won the Great British Pub Award for Best Pub for Late Night in 2021 uses a lot of technology to stay ahead of the game.

“We have a mini theatre set-up here with a stage and lighting because we have daily performances so it’s quite advanced kit we have,” says Zsolti Szabo, marketing manager for the Phoenix Arts Club in Soho, London. “We do live music so we have instruments including a couple of pianos, a lighting rig and a projector for the backdrop of the stage.”

Szabo explains the basement bar has been experimenting with other sorts of interactive technology such as implementing an app that works via a QR code on each table that allows customers to input their name and any suggestions for the act to perform in terms of musical style or a particular song.

He says: “It comes up on backdrop that’s behind the performers so the artists can look at it and get a feel for what the audience that night is actually looking for in what kind of style or genre of artists they would like to hear. There are some technologies that we are experimenting with, in terms of audience engagement, that is making it easier for artists to cater for the audience.”

During the height of the pandemic when the on-trade was open but had to offer table service, The Phoenix Arts Club used the Hungrrr app, which allowed it to offer food and drinks from its own menu that was uploaded to it. The system is still in use but naturally has fewer users as more people order straight from the bar. However, Szabo says the business is looking to implement tech that runs in co-existence with its core system to allow it to offer more to guests.

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“[We want] something that allows us to sell membership or tickets for shows through the app because, at the moment, we can’t do that,” explains Szabo. “We're kind of looking for a holistic solution where everything is integrated. We already have a couple of different databases to run the membership scheme to run the ticketing. But our PoS system is separate from that system.”

He adds the venue is also looking to offer education packages after receiving funding from Arts Council England. “We have a very theatrical clientele, or people who are interested in stage-related activities,” says Szabo. “Some of it may be performance-based stuff, like an introduction to burlesque or puppetry or magic. But we are also potentially looking at training staff who can work behind the scenes, such as working with technicians and maybe graduates on how to run shows.

“We are looking at a broad range of possibilities and in the coming months going to narrow down where we're going to focus first but that’s what most of the funding is supporting us to do – to provide education to our customers and to people who regularly come here and to attract new audiences, introduce them to cabaret and other activities within the theatrical world.”

Bar operator Loungers uses Orderbee from Access Hospitality

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Loungers aims to create a unique experience for its guests and the rapport between staff and guests is an important part of that experience. As the country emerged from the first Covid-19 lockdown, it became clear technology could help with complying with the various regulations around social distancing, table service and minimising social contact.

After seeking feedback from fellow operators and an intensive assessment process of the order and pay solutions available, Loungers identified Orderbee as the right solution for them.

“Quite simply, Orderbee enabled Loungers to provide an invaluable and flexible service offering when reopening after lockdown,” said Lee Everson, head of IT at Loungers. “We still see over 50% of transactions are made through the solution but it has provided much more than just a functional service, it’s changed the way we use our technology and interact with customers”.
Download the case study​ to find out more.

Click here​ for more details.

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Riddle me this

Entertainment is a category many pubs are diversifying into and quizzing is no exception.

Tech business SpeedQuizzing allows customers at pubs to join a quiz through an app on their smartphones and removes the need for pens, paper and answer marking. SpeedQuizzing co-founder Alan Leach (pictured with John Leach below) says: “It’s been described as a cross between a quiz and a game show, and it’s proving increasingly popular as SpeedQuizzing games are taking place in more than 1,000 thousand pubs in the UK every week.

“Games are hosted via our platform by a presenter in the venue using a laptop and are designed to be fast-paced, interactive, entertaining and hassle-free.

“We’ve done our best to eliminate opportunities to cheat too, with our software making it easy to set time-limits on how long teams have to answer each question.”

Leach adds any size pub can take part from village pubs with a handful of teams to large bars with up to 400 players.

Hosts can purchase a digital question pack and download the company’s quiz software onto their laptop. The only other item needed is a SpeedQuizzing hub that can be bought cheaply from SpeedQuizzing. It is a stand-alone Wi-Fi router that hosts and players connect to at the start of every game.

“We’re finding that pubs and bars are increasingly turning to quizzes rather than live sport to drive footfall and sales on traditionally quieter nights of the week,” adds Leach.

Landlord Mark Pinckney from the Deramore Arms in York says: “From taking the faff out of preparing for and hosting quizzes, through to driving some of our biggest crowds of the week, SpeedQuizzing has transformed our pub quiz night. Since we started hosting in 2018, we've seen a swell in the number of people taking part and we’re now at the point where we’re averaging about 16 teams and close to 100 people every time.”

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Get customers to stay loyal with Pepper

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Pepper​ partners with hospitality brands to create beautiful ordering and loyalty solutions, that simplify service and drive revenue. 
Our apps are in operation across the country, from craft beer brewpubs to beachside clubs, national chains to independent locations. Pepper’s flexible all-in-one approach means you can choose the ordering, loyalty and payment features that are relevant to your business.

Whether it’s an order-to-table QR code web app, a sophisticated bar tab function with bill splitting or a brand new points or stamps loyalty programme, our powerful integrations take the pain out of launching your new system.

Pepper’s specialist team works on the ground with your staff, to ensure your app or web solution not only launches successfully but continues to grow with your business. Our friendly team are always happy to chat about your digital needs, so please do get in touch.

Click here​ to find out more. 

Clean lines are critical 

Of course, keeping customers supplied with drinks is a major component of a successful pub but this needs technical expertise to ensure it runs smoothly and having clean draught lines is vital.

Beer line cleaning expert Beer Piper commercial manager Jeff Singer says using technology to ensure the smooth running of draught lines at your pub or bar has never been more critical. 

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He adds it is prudent to ensure your venue operates in the slickest way possible to boost profits and secure jobs. He explains: “Although it can be daunting to move away from your usual way of operating to unchartered territories, once you immerse yourself in new high-tech systems, you may be surprised at the amount of time – and money – they can save you in the long run.

“We help pub licensees run their line cleaning operations in a more efficient way – and technology sits at the very heart of our business.”

Beer Piper’s BP4 system is a machine that links to a mobile app that can control, track and report line cleans in real time, which it says makes beer line cleaning easy, accurate and fast. Cloud-based technology logs when and who cleans the lines and allows bar managers access to real time data via the web-based portal and the app.

The system even allows waste to be saved because publicans can serve the beer in the lines that is normally thrown away as part of a ‘manual’ line clean, which can lead to significant savings.

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Site type is key to tech continuation

On-trade venues had to start or increase their use of tech when it came to payments and bookings but the need to continue to do so is dependent on the type of site, according to Star Pubs & Bars head of pub services Mark MacDonald.

He says: “Before the pandemic, approximately 70% of payments were cash and 30% card. Those percentages have flipped round now making contactless payment crucial. The necessity to use online booking, however, depends on the pub type. Customers expect the convenience and certainty of being able to book a meal online at food-focused pubs.

“However, at typical wet-led community locals, customers are keen to ‘get back to normal’ and enjoy a spontaneous visit and the social interaction that comes from ordering in person at the bar. And, with people going out less and spending more when they do, loyalty schemes have never been more important.

“They provide customers with a reason to choose your pub over the competition. Many big chains used them with great effect and they offer often untapped potential for independent operators.”

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MacDonald hails an EPoS system as “the most important piece of kit a pub has” adding it is central to a pub’s efficient operation and is one of the main tools for interacting with customers.

He continues: “Having the right EPoS system can revolutionise how a pub operates and used correctly, boosts profits. It is key to keeping a business on track and running efficiently as it enables you to understand trading patterns and staff performance. Having a good EPoS system is crucial in today’s climate with customer habits changing due to the pandemic and more volatile trade.

“The spiralling price of computer chips, hardware and shipping containers have pushed up the cost of EPoS systems. Star has used its buying power to negotiate prices on EPoS systems with Microtill that independent licensees would be unable to negotiate individually. This has mitigated the impact of inflation for our licensees and fixed their prices for the next four years.”

Tap to Tip facility all goes to the staff

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‘Tap To Tip’ is the world’s first dedicated tip collection device and is designed to sit on your bar top or countertop, giving maximum visibility and proximity to the customer, ensuring you’ll never miss a tip. All transactions are contactless and go directly to staff, powered by TiPJAR​.

TiPJAR is the UK’s leading cashless tipping platform on a mission to bring fair, transparent, peer-to-peer tipping to the industry. We’re cleared by HMRC, live in more than 2,000 venues and have already helped over 13,000 staff collect in excess of £1.3m in tips since 2019.

We’re web-based and have a sophisticated API, so we can integrate directly into your EPoS or order at table/payment tech. We integrate to the leading players in this market such as Sunday and Mr Yum, allowing a seamless experience for your customers.

Help your teams earn more, for less. Saying thanks has never been so easy.

Click here​ for more details. 

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Putting health first

Food hygiene and safety solutions provider Food Alert has seen Covid-19 as a catalyst for operators to adopt tech solutions. The business’s client services director John Haswell explains: “What we have seen at Food Alert over the past two years is a seismic shift to digital compliance. Hygiene and health & safety has always been core to running a compliant pub business, but Covid-19 shone the spotlight on the benefits of health & safety and food safety cloud-based software solutions, such as Alert65.

“These applications have enabled operators to effectively manage safety procedures and reduce risk exposure seamlessly across multiple sites from any location, such as a home office. Being able to easily update and share the latest legislation, send updates and reminders, create checklists, access certificates and even employee training schedules remotely is a huge benefit.

“The switch to digital means tackling complicated compliance issues is easier to manage by automating manual tasks and storing all critical information and policy documentation, across multiple sites in a single location. This, in turn, gives front-line staff more time to focus on delivering a memorable customer experience.”

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Credit: Food Alert

Supporters of Food Alert’s tech innovations include Fuller’s director of food Paul Dickinson and Young’s heath & safety manager Dan Spickett.

Dickinson says: “Switching our compliance to Food Alert’s Alert65 has been really helpful when it comes to weekly updates of due diligence and safety of our business rather than waiting until the end of an audit to get a paper report. The onboarding process was so easy, the Food Alert team did all the work and took in everything we needed.”

Spickett adds: “Alert65 has transformed the way we manage our safety compliance. Until recently, we printed three different diaries – food safety, health & safety and hotels – which not only used 180,000 sheets of paper each year but was incredibly resource intensive and relied on our managers to maintain and not lose.
“Now our general managers have a tablet, from which they can access Alert65 and through a dashboard complete everything from checklists to incident reporting and risk assessments. Not only does it make compliance easier, it also means we can spot if a venue has any risks.” 

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Students filling the employment gap

With the many headwinds facing the sector, the staffing issue is one that is hitting the sector hard but student workforce platform Stint sees a solution to at least part of the problem with its tech in combination with work-hungry university pupils.

Stint, founded by Sam and Sol Schlagman (pictured below), is a strategic labour management solution, developed to help hospitality operators achieve a new, more efficient operating model. The business explains: “We connect businesses with university students who work short shifts that make a big difference. Stint students carry out basic tasks such as clearing tables and washing glasses, taking pressure off your skilled core team so they can focus on serving more customers and creating brilliant experiences.

“The recent staffing crisis has had a major impact right across the hospitality sector, and customers are losing out. Taking quick-service restaurants as an example, recent KAM Media research​ revealed 59% of workers felt customer experience was suffering due to staff shortages. They also saw technology as a solution, with 64% saying their job satisfaction would improve if their venue introduced tech which allowed them to focus on customer service. This is definitely filtering through to the pub sector.”

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Last year, Stint began working with gastropub the William Morris, in Colliers Wood, south London. A key challenge was tackling the strain their staff felt at busy periods because they couldn’t dedicate enough time to their customers. Integrating Stint students into the pub’s weekly rota meant they could provide great customer service, increase spend-per-head and boost team morale.

The William Morris general manager Paul Wilkinson says: “At our spikes without a Stint we don’t have enough staff and they’re typically overstretched. Using Stint has been really helpful for us, allowing our core team members to really focus on the guests and the guest experience while using the Stints to do a lot of basic tasks.”

Case study

New ordering app encourages upselling

The Victoria, Battersea

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Credit: Store Kit

Licensee Steve Evans introduced a new ordering app to encourage upselling as well as great service in the newly enlarged 210-seater outdoor area at the Victoria, Battersea, which is a Star Pubs & Bars leased site.

Upselling has become seamless, he says, customers scan a QR code and are offered options for better or additional items as part of the ordering process with trade quadrupling.

Evans explains: “Customers are happy to spend. It’s less pushy using the app and there's still interaction with serving staff. You also get useful information on what's selling, which helps with restocking. We use the Storekit app because it’s really competitive. You don’t need a back-office system or to pay a rental fee, just a £250 printer that connects to Wi-Fi. 

“There’s a 1.9% transaction charge and a 15p per transaction fee. We add a 20p transaction charge to customer orders to cover those costs and haven’t had a single complaint. If you’re looking at ordering apps, make sure you choose one that’s web-based and check transaction fees, which can be hefty.”

Any tech that saves time, improves service and increases efficiency is to be embraced says Evans, especially with staff shortages impacting the industry. Unable to answer the volume of phone calls, he opted to use booking service, Design My Night. 

Customers enter the number in their party, preference of inside or outside table and time slot plus contact details and can opt in for updates on promotions and news. Evans says: “We pay a flat fee of £120 a month, which includes marketing. It more than pays for itself if you factor in the staff time saved in dealing with bookings. It means knowledgeable staff are where they should be, serving customers, allowing us to focus on speed of service and quality. The 250 emails a day we were receiving reduced to 25 once we introduced it.”

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Head of Steam combines tech with great service

North of England-based, 15-strong pub group Head of Steam is an exponent of craft beers and partnered with tech business Pepper in May 2021.

Head of Steam introduced ‘Order to Table’ in all its pubs, using either the mobile app or via a QR code. Its customer data and in-app behaviour allows it to drive marketing campaigns and ad-hoc perk awards. By offering an in-app exclusive 50% discount on vegan dishes during Veganuary 2022, Head of Steam attracted new customers to its pubs and saw a 7% increase in app transactions.

Fantastic customer service is key to the offering at Head of Steam, as Mark Connor, head of operations and brand, explains: “We work in partnership with the pub teams to understand how we can continue to offer our customers the friendly and expert service they’ve always enjoyed at the bar, but from the comfort of their table.

“That’s also meant constantly evolving and improving the app itself. Digital ordering is here to stay, and with the support of the Pepper team, we’ll continue to recruit and retain loyal app users.”

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She’s Eclectic

Another business that has recruited the help of Pepper is Eclectic Bars.

The Eclectic Bars web app takes phenomenal sales during peak trading periods - accounting for 95% of sales at weekends. The group has a huge tourist customer base, often one-time customers, whose main aim is to be served quickly so that they can get back to the beach. When the group partnered with Pepper, it was clear that speed of service was key.

Using Pepper’s web app, customers scan a QR code and order food and drink to their tables. Operations executive Nick Lewis explains: “During our busiest periods, it was impossible to operate table service to all tables, so the web app has meant all customers can be served – and it has eliminated walkouts.”

The group estimates the savings as on walkouts as £1,500 per month at a single site, during its summer trade. 

The operational efficiencies that come with 80% to 95% of orders via the web solution also means staffing efficiencies for the team with the number of floor staff used per shift reducing by a third.

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Demand for people-first interactions​ 

Although technology has been embraced by most, there is a thirst for human interaction according to north-west brewer and pub operator Hydes Brewery.

Finance director Simon Mollitt explains the use of apps and online ordering had a “transformational impact” on the operational side of its business during the pandemic.

“When covid was at its peak and pubs were just opening back up again, technology enabled us not only to get back up and running quickly, in a covid-safe environment, but enabled us to streamline service when required, particularly when the ‘ping-demic’ was having a catastrophic impact on our teams,” Mollitt says.

“That said, although we appreciate the role technology has played on getting the industry back on its feet, this latest innovation and place in the future is also met with a cocktail of anticipation and trepidation.

“This very transactional way of operating isn’t sustainable long term. It undoubtedly has its place, and a proportion of customers have certainly embraced the app ordering culture, but the vast majority we see are craving getting back to the bar to order a pint the old-fashioned way.

“At Hydes Brewery, we are a people-first operation. Elevating the end-user experience through exceptional customer service is at the heart of our business. Unlike for example, the evolution of the supermarket experience, where we would now think nothing of getting in and out of a supermarket without interacting with another human being, the nature of the hospitality industry is a different beast.”

He adds the pub is at the core of a community and so much more than a transaction – demonstrated by the welcome to a table and conversations when a drink is ordered at the bar.

“If we can enter an establishment, and order a pint to our table, all without any interaction at all with another human being, what do we really risk losing?” laments Mollitt. “It goes without saying that this latest shift will most certainly have a big impact on the hospitality landscape but to what degree and what cost?”

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Sounds good to us

Audeohost, which provides live audio to a user’s smartphone, also sees a bright future for tech in pubs when it comes to connecting the customer to the on-screen action.

Its offer, which focuses on connecting your customers to your venue’s live onscreen entertainment and giving them choice in what they see and hear, has been labelling as “innovative and exciting”.

The business recognises a venue has high-cost overheads from TVs to must-have multiple sports subscriptions, music and other visual entertainment and says its technology allows delivery of live TV commentary for each programme on display to a smartphone.

For example, if a pub’s TVs are showing the news, a football match and a horse race simultaneously, and there is music playing in the background, customers can download a free app to their phone, connect to Wi-Fi and listen to any live commentary they choose from the menu within the app so long as the Audeohost platform installed at the venue.

Fitzgerald Group (Pubs & Hotels), Ireland, finance director Pat Walsh says: “Audeohost is a very innovative and exciting product. It gives a publican a great opportunity to provide their customers with that ‘something extra’. It will give premises an extra edge and ensure that customers enjoy their visit all the more.”

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Tips on the personal touch

The impact of having a more tech is clearly beneficial in many aspects but the lack of face-to-face contact that hospitality is renowned for is only now coming back into play. One thing staff have been desperately missing is the chance to show off their personal skills and earn tips for a job well done.

Digital tipping platform Tipjar has recognised this trend and has a solution to the fact consumers are moving away from cash and towards digital payments, which has affected the lives of five million tipped workers in the UK.

The business says: “Tipjar has an end-to-end infrastructure for tipping. Our system helps venues collect, attribute and distribute digital tips transparently and fairly among a business’s workers.”

Its system is live in more than 2,000 venues and has helped over 13,000 staff collect in excess of £1.3m in tips since 2019. It is completely web-based and there is no app to download. Customers can tip using QR codes, NFC tags, Tap To Tip devices, URLs or via integrations with many pay at table or delivery apps. Once a tip is collected, it’s split fairly based on hours and who was working at the time the tip was received and is instantly accessible. What’s more, 100% of tips go directly to staff and not through the business, unlike in tronc.

Through our platform, any tips paid is equivalent to cash and wholly owned by the staff themselves (just like cash tips), by-passing the business. As long as an operator hands over full control of tip management to the staff via Tipjar, they cannot be held responsible for tax or NI contributions on the tips collected and can move away from operating a tronc system (just like cash tips).

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Access all areas

Technology provider Access Hospitality believes systems introduced at pace during the past two years are set to make a lasting impression for operators from improving the guest and staff experience and increasing their potential return on investment.

Access Hospitality managing director Henry Seddon says: “The surge of stand-alone apps that came to market helped meet restrictions that were imposed at the time but as these relaxed, the importance of having integrated technology to connect different operational processes has become clear to see.

“With order and pay solutions able to collect a wealth of data that can predict customer behaviour, operators can use it for loyalty and CRM programmes and it also opens the possibility of personalising, and monetising, the guest journey.

“If a customer regularly orders the same dish or drink, the integration of Orderbee and Access Acteol CRM can display those favourites at the top of that customer’s menu, providing a customised experience and saving them having to scroll down.” 

He adds that Access Orderbee provides flexibility for both venue and guests and offers excellent speed of service, activated via QR code, Wi-Fi landing page or by typing an address into a mobile device but adds it is important for technology to evolve and development of a hybrid ordering capability that enables a guest to run a tab, order multiple times and pay once at the end of their visit rather than having to checkout at the end of each order has been important. It also allows groups to split the bill without the difficulty of someone manually working out those end-of-evening calculations.

One adopter of the Orderbee system is bar operator Loungers and its head of IT, Lee Everson, believes it was a crucial investment that is still providing benefits as business gets back to usual.

“At Loungers, we needed a rapid response to meet government guidance and recognised that introduction of an order and pay solution was our first step,” he says. “Orderbee was selected after an intensive assessment of the order and pay solutions available and seeking feedback from fellow operators.

“Orberbee enabled Loungers to provide an invaluable and flexible service offering when reopening after lockdown. We still see over 50% of transactions are made through the solution but it has provided much more than just a functional service, it's changed the way we use our technology and interact with customers.  

“Orderbee is going to be key to our plans for running promotions and upselling as our technology transformation continues. We also intend to manage communication about allergen information through Orderbee to supplement the current need to refer guests to a member of the team.” 

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Specific option for Corbin & King 

London-based hospitality operator Corbin & King is among a host of businesses that have implemented OrderPay tech but solely for payments.

Using OrderPay’s Pay & Go solution to take payments via a QR code during the pandemic, Corbin & King is continuing to use it and has seen 12 times the number of tips versus a card reader during that time, which has also meant staff retain personal contact with guests.

OrderPay chief data officer Steve Callery says: “Gone are the days of a thousand apps with limited applications and feature sets. Solutions must now be agile while complementing and enhancing what already makes your venue great, rather than replacing your service model.

“Whether that means keeping everything the same but having QR codes on the table so customers can pay digitally at the end or giving them the option to order, manage their tab, splitting the bill and final payment themselves. These solutions save your staff considerable time, giving them extra capacity to focus on guests and handle tasks more efficiently.”

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Face-to-face interactions

More than half of customers (51%) want to be welcomed in person but it is proper use of technology that allows staff the time to do so, according to hospitality technology provider Zonal.

Zonal group product director Alison Vasey explains: “People value face-to-face interaction when spending time in venues. Technology is often seen as a threat to this fundamental principle of hospitality but in fact, when deployed correctly, it does the opposite – freeing up staff to deliver great customer service, removes pain points to provide customers with frictionless experiences and generates insight to allow operators to offer bespoke experiences.”

Its research found 79% of people are happy with the ease and speed of digital payments but not everyone does so ensure you have options.

Vasey adds more than 60% of people have pre-booked at hospitality venues since reopened in 2021. She says: “While this is much welcomed by the trade, we did notice a shocking increase in no-shows. We found the collective cost of these no-shows to the hospitality sector amounts to a staggering £17.6bn in lost revenue over the course of a year – this is a huge issue for the industry and one we highlighted in our recent campaign #ShowUpForHospitality.

“With this issue in mind, now is the perfect time to reconsider digital booking systems and how they can positively impact your business. A digital booking system can remove barriers that may prevent customers from amending or cancelling their bookings.”

Vasey concludes: “The right technology should also offer pubs the chance to adopt digital loyalty functions that uses customers’ sales data to create bespoke and tailored promotions to each customer’s personal needs and expectations. For example, if a customer is known to purchase a glass of Merlot and a pint of pale ale, Zonal’s integrated loyalty solution can target them with relevant offers and promotions on those dishes to further boost sales, while rewarding them for their custom and making them more likely to return.”

Technology clearly has a multitude of uses in the front-line of the hospitality sector, whether it be to allow payments to made more easily and quickly, synching video and audio systems to give operators greater control of what entertainment they can offer customers or finding staff to fill employment gaps, its many applications will go from strength to strength after being implemented during a real time of adversity.

The direction of computer-led advancement seem more likely to come from the likes of robotic bartender Arthur played by Michael Sheen in sci-fi film Passengers​ than from an ultimatum issued by RoboCop​ so although nothing will ever beat the friendly faces of staff waiting to ensure customers have a great time at their sites, tech can give an operator the edge and surely that’s worth investigating further.

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