Food ordering apps – is it time you got one?

The Covid-19 pandemic has accelerated the tech take-up in hospitality. Will ordering through apps and online booking become the new normal?

In-venue ordering and payment apps have been around for several years with Wetherspoon’s Order & Pay leading the pack as the first of its kind for a major chain. For independents, the move towards tech has been at a slower pace but coronavirus has forced many to consider making the jump.

What’s in it for me?

Apart from the obvious safety benefits of avoiding close-quarter queues, the biggest pro of ordering and payment apps is ease. They save time for your staff so their skills are better used on pulling the best pints and dealing with customer questions.

Being able to stay seated at your table to order and pay gives reassurance to customers who are nervous about going out. An Attest survey showed that only 8% of people were waiting to visit a pub or restaurant because of money worries; while a huge 49% were holding back due to safety concerns for themselves or others. Anything that can make customers feel more comfortable in your venue is worth considering.

Ordering apps appeal to many customers, with 18-34 year-olds particularly interested. They’re the age group who would most like to order drinks online through their phone. This younger demographic is also the group most likely to be going out at the moment, which makes it all the more important to offer new payment and ordering methods.

Won’t people miss the interaction at the bar?

Some people will, yes, but unfortunately times have changed (at least for the immediate future). A CGA survey in August found that 60% of customers believe staff interaction is important to create a good experience in pubs and restaurants. The remaining 40% sided with the use of technology. So, it’s crucial to offer a solution for both types of customer – online ordering and safe table service.

Online ordering means fewer close interactions between your staff and customers, which makes it safer for everyone. There is still the chance to inject  fun into customers’ experiences when bringing out the food and drinks.

Friends ordering food through an app

Will we lose the upselling opportunity at the bar?

This is quite rightly a worry for outlets. Losing this chance at a time when you need every penny is not ideal. Think about how you can use other techniques to upsell or bring in more people. Social media is a powerful tool for sharing promotions, as are offers advertised on tables (on disposable menus). Many venues have a staff member greeting customers at the door now – use this opportunity to share the special pick of the day.

I’m interested but what are the options?

Several companies have released apps and websites in recent months, including Heineken and Carlsberg.

Heineken’s Swifty app allows customers to easily order, pay, and reserve a table. It can also help with increasing return customers through in-built vouchers and a loyalty points system. Because all of the participating venues are accessible on the app, customers only need one app for different outlets and all loyalty points are stored in one place.

Matt Rix, Head of Data Driven Commerce at Heineken, explains how Swifty’s data can help your business: “By linking payments to individuals, outlets will gain insight into the makeup of their patrons. Not only that, they now have the opportunity to evaluate the effectiveness of marketing activity and do more targeted campaigns.”

“Swifty is the right solution for our business as they allow us to understand our consumer better and reward them for their loyalty”
- Paul Gordon, Retail Marketing Manager for Star Pubs & Bars

The new digital platform from Carlsberg – Love My Local – launched earlier this year. It features the opportunity to offer click and collect, contactless service, table booking and delivery to table. There is no app to download, just a website to visit.

The service offers two packages, depending on your needs, and similarly to Swifty, outlets who are affiliated with the brand or who buy a certain amount of alcohol lines, get discounted access.

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