Saturday, 24 December 2016

Appy Christmas!

In many older pubs, you will still see a line of redundant bell-pushes around the walls in the lounge. They date back to the days of waiter service, but that largely died the death in the 1960s and 70s due to rising labour costs. It was simply no longer economic.

However, Wetherspoon’s are now reviving the idea by introducing an app to allow customers to order food and drink and have them brought to their table. Now, I’m the last person to judge whether new technology innovations are likely to succeed, so I won’t dismiss it out of hand. And if you restrict it to card payments you eliminate all the cash handling that used to make up a large part of the waiter’s job.

However, there are some obvious problems. For a start, it makes checking that customers aren’t underage or drunk that bit more difficult. And I can’t see the app listing all the guest ales that are on at a particular time, creating a further disincentive to order them. What happens if you’re given short measure or a cloudy pint? And, knowing the usual speed of service in Wetherspoon’s, you can just see the wait times stretching endlessly out, resulting in some very irate customers.

You can see the reasoning when it comes to food, which has to be brought to the table anyway. Indeed, companies like McDonalds have already been experimenting with computerised order points. But I expect Wetherspoon’s to learn the hard way that table service for drinks, as opposed to customers ordering and collecting them at the bar, costs money. At a time when the minimum wage is rising much faster than general inflation, can they afford to make their pub operations more labour-intensive?

14 comments:

  1. Table service for drinks is little more than an ill-conceived gimmick and, apart from making many of his customers even fatter and lazier, will do nothing to enhance Tim Martin’s bottom line.

    Expect to see a labour shortage in the coming year, especially if the deluded woman running the country insists on restricting migration from the EU; so this idea is already dead in the water.

    Tim Martin was one of Leave’s most vociferous supporters, so it will be doubly ironic if the policies he was so supportive of leave him struggling to find staff. Be careful what you wish for, as what goes round comes round.

    Merry Christmas by the way!

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    1. By the way, Paul, you're getting very close to comments like that being rejected for off-topic axe-grinding.

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    2. By threatening to bar my comments Mudge, you are acting in exactly the same manner as our esteemed leader! There was nothing off-topic with the points I raised about the difficulties Tim Martin may face in recruiting staff, post-Brexit.

      Whilst on that topic, enjoy your Christmas dinner while you can, as you may find next year there’s no-one available to harvest your Brussel sprouts and other seasonal vegetables.

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    3. Commenting on blogs is a privilege, Paul, not a right. It isn't the place for political axe-grinding. And frankly, if you're still whining about the referendum result six months later, you come across as a pathetic poor loser. Time to grow up.

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    4. Would Paul's comments have been deemed appropriate if written in the comments on the "Highlights of 2016" post? Trying to understand the difference between whining and gloating.

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    5. There is a rather obvious difference between comments that are picking an argument, and those that aren't.

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    6. Mudge, whilst I fully accept the right of any blog owner to vet, if necessary, comments which are posted in response to an article; statements such as “Commenting on blogs is a privilege, Paul, not a right”, come across as rather high handed. My original comments were NOT off topic, although they could be construed as trying to provoke debate; a whole world of difference from “picking an argument.”

      That aside, I was going to let the matter rest, but seeing as you have chosen to personally insult me, along with 16 million other people who are unhappy not just with the result of the referendum, but with the direction the government are taking us in, I feel I at least deserve the right of reply. You, of course, may choose to see things differently, and I fully accept your right to withhold publication.

      I am not going to go over the events of the past six months, but I will say the referendum was not a contest; and to talk of losers is missing the point. As well as “losers” there can be no real winners from this debacle either. We are already seeing signs of this with the economy, and there are worrying signs that foreign investors are holding back on investing in the UK.

      I expect none of this worries you or your “Kipper” friends, but many of us still work for a living and for decisions, which affect the whole country, to be taken on a purely political basis, without paying heed to the economic consequences, is not just irresponsible on the part of government, but also shows a real contempt for a significantly large proportion of the electorate (just under half in fact).

      As I am just over four years away from retirement, it could be argued that the decision of what was little more than a political gimmick on behalf of David Cameron, will have little affect on me either. However, they will seriously impact on the hopes and dreams of many young people. They will also affect cross-border cooperation in the fields of science and medicine; areas I am currently employed in, and things I care about very much.

      I will therefore not idly stand by and let all that is good in this country be swept aside on a wave of petty-mindedness nationalism, spurred on by newspaper owners who have a vested interest in severing our ties with the EU, without at last passing comment, when and where appropriate.


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    7. Paul, I'm not going to enter into a political debate with you, but you began this by introducing extirely irrelevant and extraneous political comments into your reply.

      Anyway, you and others have now spoiled it for everyone as I have turned off comments until further notice. Blog comments are not intended as a political soapbox and until you recognise that the privilege is withdrawn.

      And, as said above, it should be entirely obvious when the prime intention of comments is simply to provoke an argument.

      Delete
  2. I can see that causing more problems than making convenience. What happens when it's so busy you end up waiting for ages? If you're at the bar you can usually tell when you're going to be served but if you're sitting at a table out of sight of the bar it's just going to be frustrating. From the business point of view at also removes any opportunity by the bar staff to up sell.

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  3. Rest assured this will not have been introduced in the expectation that labour costs will increase, quite the reverse. The logic will be the same as McDonalds, i.e. The customer placing the order him/herself saves the staff member doing it.
    Or it could be that staff will use the time saved to actually clear and clean some tables; there's a thought.

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  4. Spoons have form when it comes to innovation. It'll either improve the gaffs or it'll be dropped. I'll have a go if they bring it to Android.

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    Replies
    1. Yes, if it works it will become an established feature, if it doesn't it'll be quietly dropped.

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  5. I can immediately see one advantage for the lone person who has to risk losing his table whilst visiting the bar to place his order.

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    1. Yes, that can be a problem if you're on your own and want to order a meal deal, so you can't use the pint you've already bought as a sign of occupancy. Being able to put a coat on the seat and a paper on the table helps, and I always try to choose a table within view of the bar so I can say "Oi, I'm sitting there!" if someone tries to snaffle it.

      It was suggested a while back in "Wetherspoon News" that they could introduce "Table occupied" signs for precisely this situation, but Tim pooh-poohed the idea.

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Comments, especially on older posts, may be subject to prior approval. Bear with me – I may be in the pub.

Please be polite and remember to play the ball, not the man.

Any offensive or blatantly off-topic comments will be deleted.

See this post for some thoughts on my approach to blog comments.