Hospitality has a rich history. Its roots lie in the Ancient Greek concept of guest friendship, while there’s evidence of at least 80 Roman food and beverage outlets at Pompeii, including a grab-and-go snack bar. In 8th century Japan, Silk Road travellers rested their weary heads in the world’s first guesthouses. By the time of the Gunpowder plot, England was home to at least 17,000 alehouses. And now in 2021, Britain’s total number of licensed premises stands at 107,516.
Yet, whether you were Shakespeare getting a round of meads in at the alehouse or a millennial sitting down for a super smoothie at a vegan cafe, not a lot has changed in the last couple of thousand years. Sure, the surrounding architecture is different. You might get an Uber there instead of a horse and cart. But the transactional ordering process at the centre of it all is the same: walk in, wait to be served, order from a staff member, eat, wait for the bill, physically pay, then leave. In a hyper connected modern world full of IT, AI, and 5G, hospitality is still in the Stone Age.
While hungry and thirsty diners have been sat around trying to catch the waiter’s eye, the whole world has gone mobile. Using the device in your pocket, you can order that Uber, listen to Spotify, scroll through Instagram, FaceTime a friend, WhatsApp the group chat, tap in on the Tube, get your groceries, read the newspaper, and do your banking. Everything is available, everywhere, instantly. The always-connected modern customer now expects total convenience, delivered digitally and in virtual real-time. Yet, after a year unlike any other in hospitality’s long history, Order & Pay software finally scratches that itch, cutting the high-tech deficit in the dining market.
This new digital ordering tech transforms customer experience, putting the power firmly in their hands. By scanning a QR code with their smartphone, food & beverage menus are suddenly at their fingertips. This kind of interaction is intuitive to modern consumers, especially after the explosion of food delivery apps such as Just Eat. With Order & Pay, out-of-home customers can now get what they want, precisely when they want it—all at the push of a button. No more awkward miming or jostling at busy bars next to sharp-elbowed punters. Just scan, order, and pay.
It may have taken a pandemic to shake things up, but necessity is the mother of invention. Have the last twelve months been immensely challenging? Yes. Have they simultaneously been very interesting? Also yes. Why? Because of the involuntary transition to digital in every facet of our lives, from working to socialising to shopping.
The origins of this trend naturally stretch to the mobile world which existed pre-Covid, but lockdowns thrust unprecedented changes on us. Physical restrictions required virtual solutions; it will most likely be the biggest digital transformation experiment we’ll ever see. As a result, consumer expectations have shifted even more radically. We’re now more accustomed to immediacy and convenience than ever. Think of the ways in which Zoom, Amazon, and Deliveroo sustained us all through lockdown. Catalysed by Covid, tech-savvy customers have new requirements; for businesses to thrive in this new reality, customer experiences have to be safe, speedy, and seamless.
The hospitality industry woke up and smelled the coffee. In the summer of 2020, contactless technology come to the fore, born out of a need to reduce both touch points and interactions between staff and guests. Like in so many other industries though, there has been a realisation that innovation is the ability to see change as an opportunity—not a threat.
There is almost limitless potential to Order & Pay; in any environment where there is food & beverage being ordered, the tech can slide in to make life easier. Whether it’s filtering menus according to dietary requirements or the ability to pay online with Apple Pay, customers can spend less time lingering and more time living. While restaurants and pubs may be the most obvious and frequent settings for the software, there is a wide variety of productive scenarios. We want our platform to bring as much flexibility to as many operators as possible: convenience without compromise.
To that end, our team have been working in close conjunction with fellow Britsh tech disruptor Whoosh, the at-seat tech experts who are improving journeys for rail companies. Slotting into their newly launched Real-Time Journey Dashboard, which keeps users up-to-date with every detail about their rail journey on their smartphone (such as on-time performance, live departure info for their onward connection, and where the taxi rank is located at their final destination), our Order & Pay platform will also allow users to grab a coffee and a snack onboard and get it delivered to their seat.
It is this kind of on-demand ease which will fuel the post-pandemic recovery. Life won’t wait, and the food & beverage industry is finally aboard the digital train. Full steam ahead.