Today’s gastropub community knows enough about table ordering apps to realize that they were important long before the Covid-19 pandemic, but local lockdowns have accelerated their usage indoors. Is it time to reconsider their presence at the dining table?
Figure 1. Gastropub Bike Ride via Flickr
What is a Table Ordering App?
Eliminating physical menus and card readers, a table ordering app provides customers with a list of a gastropub’s dishes and drinks. The customer accesses this via their smartphone.
Typically, restaurants will use QR-codes and/or web widgets to allow customers access to a menu from where they’re seated. An app works the same way. Customers also pay for their orders on the spot, using the app.
Since mid-2020, Covid-19 restrictions have ushered in a new set of table ordering apps. For the sake of public safety, ordering at the table via an app became common and remains popular in gastropubs and eateries with bars. (In fact, the British chain JD Wetherspoon led the charge and released an innovative order-and-pay app back in 2017.)
These apps have reduced physical contact between customers and staff. They’ve maintained that customers remain seated, ensuring social distancing measures indoors. A pub order & pay app prevents overcrowding at the bar while also making it convenient for customers to select orders.
Figure 2. Burgers and Beers by Karla Vizone via Flickr
Types and Costs
There are two siblings in this family.
A native app refers to the type that customers must download onto their own device. On the restaurant’s part, native apps can cost quite a bit of cash. The venue or chain will usually pay app developers to create a unique app, which they can then customise to work in conjunction with the restaurant’s way of doing things.
Go with a native app and you’re looking at multiple outgoings.
- Signup Fees. To make a table ordering app available to the public, you’ll have to pay the distributor a fee. Think of a supermarket shelf: you have to pay for the product’s place among others. With the Apple App Store, this is a yearly fee (about £72 per annum). The Google Play Store (Android) charges a one-off fee.
- Electronic Point of Sale (EPOS) Integration. Point-of-sale systems require both time and money to work together. There are many EPOS systems out there, and readymade apps typically support the major, well-known companies. However, go with your own dedicated app and you’ll have to pay a fee to integrate your system to work alongside the app.
- Venue Costs. This one’s self-explanatory. Developers will charge you depending on how many restaurants you own. More restaurants mean more fees to pay.
The alternative is to use a QR-coded system that links customers to your online menu. Your venue’s Wi-Fi login can also act as a pathway. Although cheaper than a native app, you’ll still pay for a dedicated webpage, including setting up a reliable QR system
In the age of temporary restaurant closures and phased re-openings, table ordering systems were essential. Yet as the world of eating out moves slowly and steadily out from government-mandated measures, we need to start thinking about moving away from costly table ordering apps — especially when their drawbacks have recently become apparent.
Problems With Table Ordering Apps 2021
Problems in an app are like seeds among earth: over time, they grow and reveal themselves later on. After continual use in many gastropubs and restaurants, problems associated with table ordering apps have gradually reared their head.
For new gastropubs that have just opened like the Bull & Finch in South Carolina (a locally owned business, dedicated to dishing up meat dishes with approachable drinks from nearby breweries), venues have neither extra time nor energy to spend on a faulty pub order & pay app.
First is the nature of native apps themselves: they’re too many of them.
Native apps that require the user to download them seem intrusive to many. They also present a dilemma to new customers who don’t have the compatible hardware (e.g. they may not have a local sim card). Even still, some customers simply don’t want to download an app for every restaurant they visit.
Second is the all-too-common concern of data privacy. A British newspaper, The Times, has reported that table ordering apps take in too much personal data. A privacy watchdog has warned that hospitality businesses must only collect necessary data when customers order food and drink in gastropubs.
Third: most mobile table ordering apps seem to have a problem with specifying locations. This is a technical difficulty that many users of apps belonging to national chains with multiple locations have undergone.
In England, the popular British food critic Jay Raynor has recently pointed this out. A faulty gateway system had Raynor ordering food from an eatery 78 miles away. “Hold the Dutch pastries,” he declared, wittily. “Convene the damn app developers’ meeting immediately.”
Finally, there’s a slight over-reliance on these apps in both gastropubs and eateries. “From a consumer perspective, some have enjoyed table service,” Emma McClarkin an industry leader at British Beer and Pub Association, has said. “But many businesses say to me it’s unsustainable.”
The problem McClarkin has noted consists of two key drawbacks: (1) labour costs, because a table ordering app requires more staff on-site to process all incoming sit-down orders from customers; (2) labour intensity — all the toing-and-froing of processing table orders is a physical effort. One member of a gastropub’s staff has even reported walking more than 35,000 steps in a single shift.
All these complaints beg the question: is there an alternative?
Pre-order Drinks with a Pub Order & Pay App
Today’s guests have a new option: to save time and pre-order drinks at your venue. Instead of waiting on the customer to make in-house drink orders, the orders will come before they even enter the door — thus making matters much easier for your team.
When a customer joins your digital waitlist, they receive a text confirmation that informs them on how long they’ll wait. This contains a link to your pre-order page. The customer then views your drink’s catalogue, including any special offers.
The advantage is this: Your restaurant can anticipate how many orders you’ll have to process throughout the day. A pub order & pay app on the other hand is immediate and receives orders on the spot — this can quickly overwhelm a short-staffed team.
Pre-orders promote efficiency. Guests can buy drinks in their own time while they wait. The added bonus is that this gets guests excited to return to your gastropub, knowing their drinks are already there for them.
Free Pub Order & Pay App — Best Alternative
Carbonara App helps you make your gastropub more efficient and provides a free drinks pre-ordering service.
Why not learn more about the best free alternative to a pub order & pay app today? You’ll see a difference in your drinks revenue, all the while keeping ahead of guest orders. Let’s help your gastropub save money, time, and staff energy. Contact us and find out more today!