“Order and Pay” apps – consider all the angles
The new order and pay app introduced by JD Wetherspoons in the spring offers an exciting new technological advance for food and drink retailers. Reducing the amount of time customers spend queueing should allow them time to consume more and could help reduce staff costs (although the drinks and food still need to be brought to the customer’s table). Driving consumers to your app also provides marketing opportunities and should help increase brand loyalty. Fans of the new tech have pointed out the usefulness of being able to see all the nutritional and other data and even tasting notes for the drink you are considering before you buy it.
Whilst some commentators have raised concerns about decreasing human interaction, and that we will see the end of the “traditional pub”, it may be that the app will mostly be used when the pub is busy, at which times interaction with bar staff would be more limited anyway and staff may have more of an opportunity to talk to customers at their tables. Bar staff will also need guidance on deciding which customers to serve first where orders come in via the app and in person at the bar at the same time. If the pub is crowded then the speed advantage may become less obvious if the bar staff are having to regularly cross the room to deliver drinks. It seems unlikely that service at the bar will disappear completely.
Some more canny observers have also noted the potential for getting people not in the pub with you to buy your drinks using the app. However, there are two particular considerations for pubs and other outlets offering the opportunity to order alcohol in this way: age verification and rules surrounding serving intoxicated customers. Bars will still need to ensure they are not inadvertently supplying alcohol to under 18s (restrictions within the app and age checking at the table will still be needed) and licensees will need to have an eye on those being bought drinks to check their behaviour and ensure they are not being served when drunk. Dealing with refunds in this situation may also be more challenging if the bill payer is not present.
In order to make the most of the opportunities presented by the new technology, premises just need to ensure that they think through all the angles and still comply with the old rules.