I went to the pub with a pal the other day. We hadn’t made a reservation but they found us a table (pre-booking is likely to become a necessity in the short term, and consumers probably accept this with the current situation. It also gives pub operators the opportunity to build up a hugely valuable database of locals from which more and more knowledge can be built about their punters). 

On the table was a menu with a QR code on it. Hover my phone over the code for less than a second, and the full menu pops up on my phone browser. I order everything I want from the menu on my phone – drinks, food, snacks. I submit my order after confirming my date of birth (bingo – pubs now know when my birthday is) and pay for the order there and then using my debit card. (My friend paid for his round of drinks via Apple Pay which is loaded up on his phone). I confirmed our table number, pushed ‘submit’ and hey presto, I received an email receipt straight into my email inbox and about 90 seconds later, two beers arrived.

“No tedious jostling at the bar…”

Not only was this ridiculously easy and convenient, it also had many other benefits.  Orders get processed by the staff in the order they’re submitted – so none of the tedious jostling at the bar to try to maintain your rightful place in the queue.  It also gives you more time to think about your order rather than hurriedly placing an order when your ‘turn’ at the bar arrives, with other customers stood around you waiting patiently (or impatiently as is often the case). 

I suspect order accuracy improves too.  My time analysing digital ordering in US convenience stores showed me that not only did consumers (particularly younger ones) prefer to order via apps or touch screens in stores, it also had two highly significant positive commercial advantages.

Firstly, the number or errors were reduced, with fewer mistakes by either the customer or the server, or a combination of the two when in environments where it was difficult to be heard and understood.

“Digital and automation are far better at upselling than humans…”

And secondly, transaction values increased. That’s because digital and automation are far better at ‘upselling’ than humans. Research showed that average transaction sizes were higher in outlets where people ordered digitally rather than person-to-person – due to a combination of digital trying to upsell every time, rather on some random bias basis (or because lots of people are waiting to be served). Secondly, customers didn’t feel any embarrassment or shame in being upsold an extra slice of cheese on that burger if they were engaging with a piece of technology rather than a real human being.

“Consumers are years ahead of businesses…”

It therefore makes you wonder why outlets like pubs hadn’t used this kind of technology en masse before. As we keep repeating at TWC, the UK has the second or third most tech savvy consumers in the world.  Often businesses who are launching new initiatives worry whether consumers will ‘embrace it’. But when it comes to technology, consumers are – in many cases – years ahead of businesses. It’s businesses that need to catch up, not the other way round.

“Data drives an operator’s digital machine…”

But now that this technology is here, and here to stay, businesses need to embrace it.  Businesses like pubs and coffee shops need to collect as much data on their customers as they can – for it’s data which ultimately drives an operator’s digital machine. 

I ordered two rounds of drinks. The pub’s app didn’t recognise me again the second time around, so I had to go through the whole process…. this was fine for last week’s visit, but as a consumer, I’d expect them to get this right pretty quickly. Also, from the pub’s point of view, it would be advantageous to understand the purchasing habits of its customers across the whole visit. 

“Staff could become data professionals…”

I would be expecting pop up promotion offers while ordering too. The pub may not need as many people working behind the bar any more….but 1-2 of these staff could be re deployed and become data professionals and digital marketing gurus for the business. As with everything in life, this sounds a bit mad and far fetched….until everyone does it. 

I remember presenting to a pub conference in the early 2000’s saying that one day in the not too distant future, most pubs will be selling coffee. They thought I was mad.  I look forward to meeting the data professional at my local Dog and Duck pub soon (or as soon as the publican recognises the need for one).

Written by: 

Tom Fender, Development Director, TWC
07802 336333
Twitter: @Tomhfender. @TWCGroup
Web: www.TWCGroup.net

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