Restrictions may be lifting, but the traditional pub model no longer works post-shutdown. Here’s one way hotels will have to adapt their operations is to lessen contact – and the main method for that is through re-thinking ordering and payment.

One of the most fundamental shifts to the way pubs operate is a switch to a model that reduces the amount of communal touchpoints and gathering among different patron groups within the pub. The main source of this shift is a move from queuing and ordering at the bar, to a table service model that will see patrons stay mainly at their tables, and order both food and beverage either from front-of-house staff or through apps. This reduces the need for queues and congregation around your public bar area.

How ordering and payment is processed is also going through a big shift, as patrons and staff alike are uneasy with handling physical menus and cash – items which could be touched by hundreds of people per day in a pub setting – so enforcing or highly recommending electronic methods of ordering and payment are another way in which venues can make everyone feel at ease.

While table service is currently a trading restriction in most states, some pubs groups have begun enacting the move long-term, as a method of reducing community transmission and to make patrons feel more comfortable within their venues.

Signature Hospitality Group has introduced a new tap-to-order system to all of its The Sporting Globe venues. After being seated, guests will use their own smartphones to tap the new devices set up at the tables, which opens up the relevant website or app, allowing them to order their food direct to their table. The device also automatically enters the venue location and table streamlining the ordering process and limiting contact.

“This technology was designed in-house to complement and support the existing team structure and to create a safer and more compelling dining out experience for guests,” said a Signature Hospitality Group spokesperson.

Australian Venue Co (AVC) has partnered with Mr Yum across all of its venues for at-table ordering via app.

“We’re going to have a lot of focus on contactless options for ordering and payment. I think it’s inevitable that there’s going to be greater social distancing [long-term], so looking at things like placement of tables and gaming machines are crucial,” states AVC CEO Paul Waterson.

Human hospitality

So with a move from bar service to table service and less mingling and movement in between areas of a pub, how does a venue retain a casual pub feel, rather than becoming a more formal restaurant setting?

Stevan Premutico, founder of me&u and a long-time advocate for the need for operators to adopt technology within their operations, says it’s all about the atmosphere and the human connection – something we’ve all missed while pubs have been closed. He uses a host as an example of a way pubs can adapt to this new scenario.

“In the evolution of the pub industry, the role of the host becomes really critical. A host meets you, greets you and seats you upon arrival. That person is not there to do the low-value stuff like take your order and organise payment. Tech can do that low- value stuff better than a person,” suggests Premutico.

“The high-value stuff is the connection, the rapport, the fun, the banter that happens when a host interacts with a table. So if we can get rid of the low-value crap and allow the high-value magic to take centre-stage, then everyone wins. It’s not a tech-centred experience – far from it, it’s a human-centred experience, that’s driven by tech.”

This is an extract from ‘A new way forward’, a feature in the June issue of Australian Hotelier, looking at various ways pubs will have to adapt their business models in a post-shutdown world. You can read the feature below.

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