The role of technology in data handling, ordering and payment will drive the future of hospitality, Arc Inspirations CEO Martin Wolstencroft has said.

Speaking at William Reed’s Hospitality Week virtual event, Wolstencroft said that with the coronavirus crisis serving to accelerate technological solutions, the role of apps and pay and order devices in the customer journey will be “huge” going forward.

Adapting to the post-lockdown environment, Arc has implemented its own order and pay app, and is in the process of developing a system intended to collect all feedback, orders and customer behaviour into a single database.

“Forced and fast-tracked into it by coronavirus,” the 17-strong bar group has already seen a 90% uptake in customers ordering food and drink via the app after just “a few weeks” of implementation.

Given the significant and immediate usage, Wolstencroft said that moving to a cashless app-led operation has “been huge for ourselves,” and will likely impact other operators in a similar way.

“It will shape the way people order in bars, restaurants and pubs going forward,” he said. “I’ve been in local community pubs that have embraced it as well as high-end bars and restaurants.

“People are getting on board with it and they’re moving fast with it. It won’t be long before you’ll be sat at a table with four different QR codes in front of you.”

However, whilst operators seem keen to make the move, Wolstencroft added that suppliers seem to be running behind.

“They haven’t got on board with the tech yet,” he said. “But it won’t be long before instead of bar displays and companies paying us for merchandise in site, there’ll be massive investments coming from brand suppliers paying for positions on apps.

“This is blue sky-thinking,” he continued. “But how long will it be before someone designs a pub or a bar without a physical bar in it?”

Whilst the concept of a bar-less bar might seem far-fetched to many, MCA contributing editor Peter Martin said that as far as consumer attitudes go, a drive towards tech and table service might not be a bad thing.

“There are some advantages of table service and it’s all about how it will adapt,” he said. “There’s a recent survey that showed people believe that interaction has improved post-covid because you’re having to talk to people. So, even in the digital world you can still have that human interaction at table.

“We can adapt our businesses not just because our individual governments tell us we have to do it, but actually by listening to what makes the consumer more comfortable.”