Running a pub isn’t a part-time job.
If you’re a landlord, there are a hundred and one things to do, from making sure customers are being served to getting the finances sorted and ordering fresh stock.
So surely the most important thing that technology can do for a pub is to reduce the load, rather than add to it?
At Future Pub Conference, Everards managing director Stephen Gould told audiences that there’s a growing “retailing gap” between managed operators and the tenanted/leased and freehouse pubs in terms of putting technology in their venues.
He said: “There’s a huge challenge for those 40,000 small businesses as to how you go about embracing technology at pace in its late infancy.”
There are a number of reasons for this, such as what the pub can afford and what can be fitted, but time is a crucial barrier. If you’re a landlord working all hours, you don’t have time to investigate, purchase and master this new technology, not to mention operate it.
Technology won’t get picked up by pubs if it requires a lot of maintenance. Which is why the most important thing that technology providers can do for the trade is to keep it simple. It should be something that can be tailored to the pub itself, but it also shouldn’t be something that requires constant supervision.
The most intriguing new developments in pub technology are the ones that enable pub customers to do what they want quicker and easier, with less stress on the staff. The most attractive vision of the “pub of the future” isn’t one where the landlord is glued to a dozen screens, but one which frees up customers to make the pub their own, find fun ways to play and talk to each other, and even help it run more smoothly.
ScreachTV works on the principle that a landlord should be able to do as little or as much as they like to develop their personalised TV channel. Basically, it can be as simple as someone coming in and getting it running for you. Some have used it to gather up requests for DJ sets, post offers and messages and arrange photo competitions. Others have simply allowed it to run in the background, offering pub quizzes, feeds of tweets, videos and pictures, and news and sport.
That’s not to say that it’s just an automated, repetitious cycle of words and pictures. People contribute to it all the time. It’s just that it’s the customers – rather than just the staff – that make the screens vibrant and unique to the pub itself. It’s fun for customers, but keeping it going isn’t a full-time gig.
Screach’s Sam Morton said:
“The things that have stuck in pubs in the past are things like fruit machines, jukeboxes and pool tables. What they all have in common is that they require nothing from the landlord. For something to stick, it’s got to be able to run independent of the landlord and the staff.
“We can set ScreachTV up for you, turn it on and it runs. If landlords want to get more involved, they can access our system and really personalise it. But it’s up to them.”
The landlord is absolutely crucial to making our favourite pubs work. Their taste and attitude are the reason why we have the beers, the food, and the atmosphere that keeps us coming back. So the best technology will be the stuff that allows them to carry on doing all these great things, while getting our fellow regulars involved in adding their own personality to the place as well.
Pic by Max Howell, used under Creative Commons