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What about the customer experience during COVID-19, Is an App the solution for small Gastropubs and Cafes?

After the first period of opening up, we have been listening to many local pub and café owners who are wondering how they can incorporate the new Covid-19 requirements into their businesses and still create an experience that their customers will want to come back for again and again, while at the sometime, reconcile this with the reality of trying to achieve profitability with less covers and more costs.

We see 4 key problems

·     There is a need to minimise interactions between the customer and staff but booking, ordering and payment have traditionally been the key interactions that offer an opportunity to forge relationships and add value to the customer experience.

·     There is a need to reinvent the “Order at the bar” business model into a “Table service” and do this somehow without a large increase in staffing costs.

·     There is a need to find new ways of interacting with our customers so that we can tell them about promotions deals and offers.

·     There is a need to enable the customer to be able to express what they think and feel, both real time and historically, so the business can course correct and evolve.

Many are beginning to conclude they need to develop a point of presence in their customers lives, frankly to get their gastropub or cafe brand into their pocket and stay there. The only way to do that is via an app to keep top of mind along with social media.

Most businesses have a website, table stakes for any business, where menus are published, specials offered and locations and contact information provided.Then there is the wide array of social media channels being used to reinforce the business brand.  It is becoming clear however that the electronic interactions between the business and the customer will need to become much more sophisticated. This is where phone app technology can play a significant role.

The new breed of apps use “progressive technology” which effectively points the app to EVERYTHING about the pub like a portal to the business website, social media channels, booking systems, ordering systems, merchandise and more thus leveraging their existing investments.

Customers can use the app to:

* book an available table at a time that suits them, which saves hours of time for staff, especially now where COVID-19 guidelines request booking of tables, where possible

* peruse the digital menus

* place orders from their table and make the payment securely online too

* opt-in to mailing lists and loyalty programs on the app including ‘earning points’ or‘ buy 10 and get 1 free'

* post a review and give their feedback or be diverted to the pub’s email address if they have constructive feedback or a complaint

This can compliment the waiter / waitress service and reduce some headcount for floor service, thereby reducing costs and minimising contact.

Your Pub or Cafe brand in customer's pockets

Conversely the business can build unique and personal relationships with their customers and strengthen their brand by sending marketing broadcasts on the app to all customers, specific groups or even direct personalised and individual offers to help the quieter mid week times.  

The technology incorporates existing solutions and investments making it affordable and which can be deployed in days. American restaurants have been perfecting this approach for years and the WeatherSpoon pub chain has demonstrated how successful it can be.

By automating the more transactional elements of the experience we can perhaps make the “new norm” for Pub eating about what it should be, the quality of the food!