• Simon Moir

Ordering food at the table, do apps help or hinder?

I had an experience on Sunday that really highlighted how technology is making us lazy. I was eating at a local pub that has one of the ‘Order from your table’ apps. The issue seemed to be that when you rely on an application to ‘fill the void’ of table-service, a void is all you end up with! There was little-to-no interaction from the staff other than dropping food at the table and getting out of there as fast as possible, before we had a chance to ask for the little things that usually I expect as the bare minimum standard of service, (like share plates, salt & pepper and fresh chilli for the pizza), let alone taking any time to build rapport with us.

While this could very well be a problem with the staff and their training, the other more troublesome issue I noticed was that with no other menus on the table, you are forced to hand your phone around to look at the menu and place your order… I don’t know about you, but I generally go out for a meal to interact with real people and take some time out from staring at my screen for a while. Inevitably, since one person is looking at the menu on the phone, it means the person you are out with also picks up their phone too – you look around the restaurant and suddenly everyone is staring at their screens – this really killed the vibe of what was supposed to a nice Sunday session.

Lastly, I placed an order that never came, so my wife went up to see what was happening and they said that the system was down. She then had to return to the table, get my phone and go back to show that we had actually placed the order… by this stage we were getting more to the point of “Let’s get out of here” rather than the long afternoon lunch and drinks we had planned.

In the end, I would estimate that we would have spent only 30% of what we had intended to on the day before we made a quick retreat and headed to another location.

While these apps may be a God-send for introverts and people who just want to order drinks without leaving their seat, if they aren’t managed properly or your staff aren’t trained to provide service beyond table-running, I can’t imagine how they can be good for business.

Before rushing to introduce these remote-ordering systems, my advice would be:

  • Go and visit other venues who have implemented them and see what the experience is like as a customer.

  • Think very hard about how the app will impact your customer-experience and make sure you update your training and procedures to mitigate the negatives.

  • Make sure someone is responsible for keeping the app updated (every day!) with what you have available and have some kind of back-up plan for when technology inevitably fails.

Phone apps might make business more cost effective and increase sales-per-head, but if it’s destroying your brand and your customer experience, you may just start seeing less people walk through the door in the first place, and none of us want that!

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