The owner of a popular Greater Manchester market is celebrating a return to near pre-Covid lockdown business levels – thanks to app technology.
Around 100 members of staff at Altrincham Market had been put on redundancy notice but now almost all jobs will be saved.
And Nick Johnson, previously a self-confessed technology sceptic, says that the app, designed by App4, has been a key factor in the market’s bounce back.
He said it is also being used at his other sites at Manchester’s Mackie Mayor and Macclesfield’s Picturedrome and he is optimistic their levels of trade will follow suit.
Nick said: “Pre-lockdown, we were feeding 30,000 people a week. We are a busy operation, employing 300 people.
“Our three locations are people-driven social experiences around food and drink, so our decision was how do we resurrect ourselves using technology – without diminishing the social aspect of what it is to come to one of our venues.
“The App has got us to the closest point where it can happen without undue interference in the interaction of family, friends and food.
“People can create an account and order and pay for food at the table and we have introduced a takeaway service so we actually have some additional dimensions.
“I had been very reluctant to embrace technology in respect of our business to the extent our strapline had been ‘not available online’ as a deliberate riposte to the interference of technology in our everyday experience.
“However, having worked with App4 and now operated an app across each of our reopened venues, we have found it allows us to reach a balance of tech supporting the experience rather than tech interfering with it.
“It gives some people a sense of safety and security. They can order and pay at their table without the need to move around. But this has not interfered too much with the atmosphere which has always been critical to our collective success.
“It does not inhibit too many people. Actually, there are very many octogenarians who are showing they are adept with technology. They realise they are the most vulnerable to Coronavirus and can most benefit from the app which will help keep them remote in a social setting.
“At Altrincham Market, our business is almost at pre-Covid levels. Meanwhile, Manchester, along with all major cities, has been hit by the lack of office workers and tourists but Mackie Mayor is trading well and improving each week. Macclesfield Picturedrome is only two weeks into re-opening and the signs are very good there.
“I don’t see the App disappearing. We are wholly relying on it to produce income at the moment and I now accept that this is very much part of the way forward.
“In the future, there will still be the excitement of a crowded bar for some but others will use the app to order food and drink.
Ian Chambers, managing director of App4, said: “We are delighted that the Alt Eats app has been such a success.
“It allows customers to choose from a hugely varied menu of food and outlets and their meals can be delivered to numbered tables in sectioned areas.”
App4 provides bespoke solutions across the food and drink industry and has seen high-profile success for pub and takeaway chains.
Ian added: “We are busy helping companies who have been desperate to trade for months. It is excellent to see their business coming back so quickly through the use of technology which they wouldn’t have otherwise considered.
“Now they all agree, it is here to stay.”