Pubs urged to embrace AI to 'futureproof' sector

By Rebecca Weller

- Last updated on GMT

Boundless possibilities: BBPA Pint Tech conference looked at the benefits of technology and AI for pubs (Pictured: Emma McClarkin)
Boundless possibilities: BBPA Pint Tech conference looked at the benefits of technology and AI for pubs (Pictured: Emma McClarkin)

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Pubs need to dive headfirst into embracing technology, in particular AI, to “futureproof” themselves and be prepared to fulfil the needs of the next generation of customers.

Speaking at the British Beer & Pub Association’s (BBPA) inaugural Pint Tech conference in the City of Westminster, London, on Wednesday 22 May, the trade body’s chief executive Emma McClarkin urged pubs and breweries to start their “technology journey” sooner rather than later.

The chief executive explained AI platforms offer multiple benefits to operators, from recognising when a customer is dissatisfied to organising payments and targeted communications to ensuring consistent quality as well as helping with labour shortages and sustainability goals.

At the event, held at the Cumberland Hotel near Marble Arch, delegates heard from speakers on a variety of topics including St Austell marketing director Laura McKay, Heineken head of technology Richard Stevens, Zonal product director Glen Tait and Lucky Saint on trade director Aaron Duffet.

In addition, McClarkin told the Morning Advertiser (MA)​ embracing technology, and specifically AI, in pubs was “not something to be scared of”.

She continued: “The future of the Great British pub and what that might look like in 2035 is something we need to be spending a lot of time thinking about now.

“Technology is going to be able to enable us to deliver a better customer experience while hopefully streamlining our costs and our processes to help us be more sustainable as well as survive and thrive well into the future.

Embracing innovation 

“It is not something to be afraid us, it is going to aid our business, big or small, in order to be prepared for the next generation of customers who have very high expectations; 71% [of Gen Z] expect a personalised experience when they go to venues.

“We need to use technology in the best ways we can to layer our digital transformation and make sure our businesses will be prepared for that in the future.”

In addition, McClarkin urged operators to discover more about the ever-evolving world of technology and AI by asking questions through events like Pint Tech and other information sources, adding knowledge on the topic was vital to “futureproof” the brewing and pub sector.

She said: “AI and tech can be quite an intimidating subject if you don’t have baseline knowledge of it, so we’ve hosted Pint Tech to bring lots of people into the room who can help lead us on that journey and start those conversations to find out which tech are the right ones for your business.”

Moreover, Greene King CEO and BBPA chair Nick Mackenzie told attendees technological advances were “reshaping every industry at an unprecedented pace”.

He said: “It is of great importance that the hospitality sector embraces innovation to ensure we continue the vibrancy of our pubs, brewers and supply chains.

Boundless possibilities 

“We can’t rely on our history and heritage as the world changes around us like it never has before.”

Earlier this month, Greene King announced plans to invest £40m in a new brewery​ in a bid to modernise its processes.

“Pubs are the original social network and the beating heart of communities, which is more important now that it ever has been, it’s all about bringing people together.

“While that will never change, technology is and will continue to evolve.

“As an industry we need to embrace what is possible and help us connect with our customers and our people.

“It can also help us run our businesses more effectively, efficiently and more sustainably, the possibilities around this are boundless.”


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