Zapaygo’s Mike Fisher on the sector’s need to look at mobile payment and delivery options
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 will be 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 handheld 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 back to 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 is, until Covid-19 changed our businesses forever.
We are fully aware that the world of hospitality has been turned upside down following mass closures everywhere. It has been a difficult time for all, and rethinking business models and the future of hospitality businesses wasn’t on the agenda for 2020. As the weeks passed by, it became very apparent that long-term solutions were needed to restart our industry again and importantly bring customers back safely.
Whilst an array 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 their own app.
The pandemic, of course, catapulted the further development of apps for pubs, bars, cafes and smaller outlets, with our own being agile in its adaptation and very quickly being able to process immediate transactions for customers and provide real-time information for operators.
Whilst many avoid change, I have been championing the marrying together of hospitality and technology for many years – this major step change now means that I can confidently move forward as being both a successful pub owner and early adopter, and major driving force within our app system.
Within a matter of days, the intensity of transaction processing by my pub teams very quickly became the norm. Customers quickly became more comfortable with app ordering and table service.
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 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 data 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, I know this way of working is here to stay.
I don’t think we will ever go back to a period of time where we’ll 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 ingrained in our everyday lives.
The forced adoption of apps within the hospitality sector will probably go down as one of the worst 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.
Mike Fisher is COO and head of corporate partnerships at Zapaygo, a digital payment and delivery platform for the hospitality industry. He previously worked as head of digital and e-commerce at Matthew Clark.