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The future of hospitality retail is all via the phone

The hospitality sector is on the verge of a major technological shift.

By Mike Fisher, COO, Zapaygo.com

The hospitality sector is on the verge of a major technological shift. 

As many of us get used to the idea of going out again and visiting friends in pubs and bars, the UK’s battered hospitality industry is tentatively making its way back into business, albeit under very different circumstances compared to early March.

But the future has – and continues to remain tough – and pub and restaurant businesses must ensure that their staff and customers remain safe to avoid any future outbreaks of Covid-19, as well as remaining profitable.

The solution? 

Technology – as our phones have morphed into mini hand-held computers, with most products and services being readily available at the touch of a button, pubs and bar owners across the UK have, to date, taken very little interest in app purchasing.

Rewind the clock 16 weeks ago and the very notion of ordering a pint of beer or a gin and tonic via the phone had largely gone unnoticed – that’s until Covid changed our businesses forever. 

As a multiple pub group owner and COO of Zapaygo.com, the world of hospitality has been turned upside down following mass closures everywhere. Certainly, as the weeks passed by, it became very apparent that long-term solutions were needed to re-start our industry again and importantly bring customers back. 

Whilst the world of hospitality-based apps have been around since 2012 and largely operating within football and sports stadiums, we didn’t quite realise at the beginning of lockdown how quickly smaller establishments would need to adopt app technology.

The pandemic, of course, catapulted the further development of apps for pubs, bars, cafes and smaller outlets, with our own app being agile in its adaptation and very quickly being able to process immediate transactions for customers and provide real time information for operators.

As a pub owner and COO of an app company, I used my three pubs as test sites as we knew that the app had to be full proof from the off.

Within a matter of days, the intensity of transaction processing by my pub teams very quickly became the norm and customers quickly became more comfortable with app ordering and table service.

Whilst many avoid change, for entrepreneurial operators who have been championing the marrying together of hospitality and technology for many years – this major step change now means that they can confidently move forward as being both a successful pub owners and early adopters.

The hospitality sector is a close-knit community here in the UK and having spoken with other proprietors, this forced change in the way that we operate is already being seen as a positive – whether individuals initially welcomed it or not.

Being able to control every aspect of our premises at the touch of a button – whether it’s table bookings, managing staff, taking pre-orders or even discovering the number of drinks being sold in real time is something that is now readily available without having to wait until closing time.

It saves on paperwork and all transactions can be pulled off the platform, streamlining everything and ultimately making the business of serving customers easier, faster and far more agile.

And this is something that we’ve already had positive feedback on, with customers commenting on how easy it is to order, and that they don’t have to cut conversations short to go to the bar – the app has actually enabled our customers to carry on chatting.”

Whilst initial investment is needed for an app that enables food and drinks orders to run seamlessly as well as keeping customers and staff safe, this way of working is here to stay agrees Mike.

I don’t think we shall ever go back to a period of time where we shall be three-feet deep at the bar. Those days are long gone. What we’ll no doubt witness instead is a return of the great British pub atmosphere, at tables where we know food and drink will be enjoyed and uninterrupted conversation will flow.

Invariably, technology changes industries and the way that we work, and after the initial fear factor has diminished, this same technology becomes engrained in our everyday lives. 

The adoption of apps within the hospitality sector will probably go down as one of the fastest introductions to technology that we have ever seen, but the benefit, of course, is that those apps will have helped to kick start one of the worst affected sectors to come out of the Covid-19 pandemic – and a future proof solution that in time will become as normal as tapping by card to pay.

As the dust settles and customer confidence returns, I know that most of my fellow hospitality business owners will welcome this change and won’t ever look back. 

About the author

Mike Fisher ZapaygoMike Fisher is COO and Head of Corporate Partnerships at Zapaygo.com, a one-stop mobile app for hospitality and sports venues. He has years of experience within the sector, having previously worked as head of digital and ecommerce at Matthew Clark.

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