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Contactless pubs: 4 things we learned building Mitchells & Butlers’ order-at-table app

Monday 6 July 2020 Digital Design & Build

Heidi Thompson's picture
By Heidi Thompson

Even before social distancing changed the hospitality industry, some businesses like Mitchells & Butlers were already responding to customer demands for quicker and easier ordering.

For example, an order-at-table app – enabling customers to choose and pay for their food and beverages without leaving their table – is an essential part of the new, contactless pub experience. Done well, it’s also convenient for the customer who no longer has to wait for service or queue at a bar. It’s great for the pub too – helping to improve efficiency and boost revenue.

Since 2017, we’ve been working with Mitchells & Butlers to develop, integrate, and refine an order-at-table app which is now available in five of their leading brands – O'Neill's, All Bar One, Ember Inns, High Street, and Sizzling Pubs, making up around 25% of the company’s near 1,700 venues.

In that time, we’ve learnt important lessons about what makes a great at-table app that keeps customers coming back for more. So if you’re in the process of adapting your own hospitality experience to make it more contactless, here are four key elements to bear in mind.

1. Real-time stock control integration is essential

Picture this: you’ve ordered food at a bar, only to be told a few minutes later that your choice isn’t available today. And then, under pressure, you choose something else which isn’t quite what you wanted. It’s frustrating to say the least. And while the bar tender could have told you your meal was out of stock at the time, they just didn’t have access to that information in the moment.

The same goes for an at-table ordering app. Without real time stock information, you risk frustrating and disappointing your customers, and creating unnecessary workload.

That’s why Mitchells & Butlers prioritised integrating its order-at-table app with the latest point of sale and stock control data to maintain an accurate menu that self-edits based on real-time product availability.

It also pays to keep out-of-stock items on the app menu – either crossed or blocked out – so your customers can still see what’s normally available to give them inspiration for next time.

2. Put the customer in control

Customers are leading increasingly busy lives, so offering the same choice and flexibility that they’d expect from face-to-face bar staff can be a significant competitive differentiator.

By giving customers more options at each stage of the ordering process, you can give them greater flexibility.

For example, a customer may have had their starter and main course, but now wants to take their dessert home. By offering the option to change part of their order at any stage, you’re giving them more options.

This helps to ensure the customer goes away happy, having had the experience they really want. And because you’ve made ordering that much easier, it can even increase your average transaction value.

3. Simplicity is the key to great user experience

When thinking about your app’s customer journey – including how it looks and feels – the process should be no less convenient than choosing from a physical menu and relaying their order to a server.

So, while it’s important to give your customers a wide range of options at each stage, your user journey should be concise, with the ability to select products and pay for an order in as few steps as possible – without the risk of payment errors or double charges.

Also, bear in mind that journey starts before they even download your app. It needs to be easy to find and recognise in their app store, and enable them to get started quickly.

It’s this kind of thinking that refined each of the Mitchells & Butlers brand app s, leading to significantly higher user uptake.

4. The right technology partner can make all the difference

Delivering a great digital experience that works for both you and your customers relies on having the right technology, and choosing a partner that’s got experience creating customer-centric apps.

It’s important to look for a partner that understands your ethos and exactly what you’re trying to achieve – and one with a team that can work with your own IT staff to help ensure seamless back-end integrations and a clear project roadmap.

Putting the customer first benefits everyone

Bringing technology like order-at-table apps into a pub environment shouldn’t just be seen as a solution to recent social distancing changes. Rather, it’s an opportunity to take a more customer-centric approach to digital transformation; start from the experience your customer wants, and build from there.

That includes listening and learning to what your customers are saying after you’ve launched. It’s important to test and learn from the results – making continual iterations as you go to refine and improve the experience.

If you’d like to find out more about our work with Mitchells & Butlers – or if you’d like to talk more about getting the most from an at-table ordering app – get in touch with our team of experts today.

We helped Mitchells & Butlers to develop a flexible, customer-centric order-at-table app – that’s now coming into its own for social distancing. Here are four things we learned in the process.

Contactless pubs: 4 things we learned building Mitchells & Butlers’ order-at-table app