From cash to contactless card and now ordering by app. The evolution of the British pub is about to make a dramatic post-COVID lockdown turn.

Pubs across the country are gearing up for re-opening but must maintain social-distancing among both customers and staff.

Consequently, they are looking towards apps to enable people to order, pay and have drinks and food delivered at their tables.

WA Pubs is a chain in the north-west of England which had already been using bespoke apps from Derby-based App4.

WA Pubs chief executive, Lee Forshaw, said: “We will have to discourage customer movement the best we can but not stop people from enjoying themselves when they are out socialising.

“We think allowing people to tell our staff what they want, pay and get it delivered through an app will make the customer experience better.

“And it will be good news for us because people spend more on drink and food if they don’t have to move from their seat.

“We believe that app uptake and app usage will rocket.”

Lee said that pubs who do not adapt to technology will be left behind.

He said: “Last year, we invested heavily in infrastructure, and we wanted an app which was ours with a payment method with which people felt safe. App4’s design met our criteria and was very quick to address any issues we had.

“We have big outside areas at our pubs with seating for 80 to 100. The app will really come into its own for people who just want to sit in the fresh air and enjoy socialising.”

Lee added: “In the 40s, 50s and 60s table service was the norm, but we had come away from that level of customer service, making people come to the bar to get a drink.

“Now, we have come full circle and there are clear benefits. Ordering from the table cuts out any congestion at the bar, means people are happier and means the staff has greater control over delivery.”

He said that WA pubs had consistently been at the forefront of technological change in pubs.

“Our first pub in Bamber Bridge was one of the first in the area to have card machines but in 2011, cash use was still running at 95 percent.

‘Initially, people were not used to paying by card but now contactless has become more popular and cash sales are now only 20%. We believe that the app will take over from card and cash.”

Ironically, WA Pubs began marketing their apps in March but were forced to close down by government edict just a day later.

Now it will use social media to persuade customers to download their app before pubs reopen. Which can be found in the App Store or Play Store searching WA Pubs.

Lee added: “I think that social distancing is likely to stay in play until the end of the year, but people will be used to app ordering by then and won’t go back to queueing at the bar.”

App4’s CEO, Ian Chambers, said: “We are currently working with several pub groups and individual pubs about the technology, as well as other hospitality businesses about the need to offer click and collect services so as to maintain social distancing.

“We can adapt our app to theirs and their customers’ needs and believe that this will be the catalyst to a whole new pub experience.”

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