No one revels in the failure of a new technology in UK hospitality – particularly one that was once hailed the saviour of the British pub. Orderella’s premise was simple – beat the queues by letting your phone do the ordering work for you at the touch of a button. But the company has had to call time on operations after accruing £2m of losses.
Whereas the app’s goal was to offer simple Uber-like convenience to users at their tables, the behind-the-scenes reality is likely a very different story. Vast complexity exists when “external” payment apps must harmonise with existing payment systems and operations. Added to that, the app itself must be easy to sign up to, reliable, bug-free and not attract a service charge to appear attractive to consumers and, crucially, be habit-forming. The challenges for an app such as Orderella to succeed were two-fold – operational and customer-led.
While this mixture of proposition challenges have likely led to Orderella’s failure, in a nation driven by convenience, I believe there is still real potential in the market place – including for those customers with physical disabilities who could be served, hassle-free, direct at their table.
By taking a look at the best-in-class operators that lead the way in this space, you can see where that potential lies. JD Wetherspoon (full estate), McDonald’s (currently trialling) and, purely from a payment perspective, Flypay (which works with many casual dining players), all offer a seamless experience through their apps.
Take Wetherspoon’s, for example. Its app works well for the following reasons:
Perhaps the scale of the task was too ambitious for an app such as Orderella. Or maybe the consumer problem it sought to solve was not actually that big in the first instance (other than on a busy Saturday night)? Having said that, as the Wetherspoon example shows, there’s certainly an opportunity for a middle ground. Something that starts small and focused – perhaps regionally – and proves itself in a defined area first, ironing out operational niggles before expansion.
While queuing is still seen as a British pursuit (Wimbledon is just around the corner, as if we needed reminding!), enjoying a round of drinks in a beer garden, hassle-free, can surely only enhance the great British pub experience.