How 2023’s Licensee of the Year Award winners and finalists use technology in their pubs
If our Pioneering Pub People podcast series, in partnership with the British Institute of Innkeeping, has shown us one thing, it’s the sheer resilience of the people working in the hospitality industry. Whilst it hasn’t been the smoothest of years, the industry has done a sterling job of weathering every storm that comes its way.
Technology has undoubtedly played a role in helping operators adapt to changing environments, with each operator featured on the podcast leveraging hospitality tech to help manage operations, keep costs down and contribute to improving the overall customer experience.
So, exactly how do these leading operators use technology in their businesses to their advantage? Read on to find out…
1. “Use your database!”
Joe Buckley and Flo Pearce, The Tollemache Arms, Harrington, Northampton – episode 6
Direct email marketing plays a big part of enticing people to revisit The Tolly according to the pub’s operators Joe Buckley and Flo Pearce.
Through their booking system and by moving bookings for their annual ‘Tollyfest’ onto a digital platform, the team has built up a database of over 7,000 contacts. Joe and Flo know that those who share their email addresses are interested in what’s happening at the pub and they use this to their advantage, sharing updates on menu items, deals, and events taking place at the pub. The Tollemache Arms has made this a success, with their email marketing enjoying a 25% open rate, in comparison to the national average across industries which sits at 21.3%.
They say the key is to not overthink it. Make it simple and have some great imagery, using email marketing as small “we’re still here” reminders.
2. “Digital reporting helps us better manage sales and staff rotas”
Michelle Gilmour, The Old Windmill, Coventry – episode 7
Innovative and easy to access digital reporting enables operators to get an accurate view of how well your pub is performing day to day, which makes planning easier says The Old Windmill’s licensee, Michelle Gilmour. The team at the pub can foresee which days of the week they are going to be most or least busy and base staff rotas on the insight. Having sight of which nights are quietest has also enabled the team to drive business during these times by putting on events, deals or promotions to entice people into the venue.
Having access to reports in real-time has been particularly useful for the team. The ability to check sales data in real-time and on any device (such as Michelle’s mobile) means quick, strategic changes can be made to menu items, based on what is and isn’t working. It also allows Michelle to react effectively – for example, if she sees a sudden spike in sales, she can pop down to the venue to lend a hand or make calls to get more staff in.
3. “Mobile order and pay tech can revolutionise the customer journey”
Ollie Coulombeau, The Turk’s Head, Twickenham, London – episode 8
The Turk’s Head adopted iPads as a mobile order and payment option, allowing its staff to take orders from tables. According to the pub’s licensee, Ollie Coulombeau, this has revolutionised the customer journey, as the team are able to serve people more quickly, resulting in reduced wait times for customers and an increase in sales going through the tills.
The pub has also continued to find the use of QR codes valuable for processing orders and payment in other areas of the venue. The pub often hosts regular theatre-style comedy events, so the team has implemented QR codes that enable customers to order drinks to their seats. Not only does this make the experience seamless for customers, but it also helps the bar staff manage orders easily and reduces queues.
4. “The right back of house tech should give you real-time updates”
Keris De Villiers, The Pig & Whistle, Wandsworth, London – episode 9
Landlady Keris De Villiers at The Pig & Whistle relies on her back office technology to review sales figures, GPs, and to keep on top of finances which has proven to be invaluable.
Being able to see exactly how all aspects of the business are performing and being able to see the most up to date information has enabled the team at the pub to make effective and strategic business decisions, and at speed. The hospitality sector is ever-evolving, so being able to remain agile and reactive is vital, Keris says and having tech working in the background to analyse sales data helps The Pig & Whistle to continue being as nimble and profitable as possible.