The technology helping the on-trade safely reopen

Kate Malczewski

Kate Malczewski

26 June 2020

Tech companies have developed new systems and solutions to assist venues with reopening according to the government's Covid-19 guidance

Earlier this week, the UK government released its guidelines to allow bars, pubs and restaurants to reopen on 4 July. These instructions stated that at least ‘one metre plus’ of social distance must be maintained between staff and customers alike at all times, and outlined, to some degree, how venues can ensure the social distancing requirements are met.

Several of the recommendations involved the use of technology to reduce contact and collect information, including encouraging contactless ordering from tables, using booking systems to streamline and limit reservations, and recording customer details for the NHS Test and Trace system.

In response, tech businesses – from small start-ups to well-known giants – have already begun to showcase new solutions that address the needs of the on-trade. Here are some of the latest apps and systems designed to aid the reopening and recovery of the hospitality industry.


Customer data management platform Airship has launched a visitor registration and check-in solution to assist venues in gathering customer details for NHS Test and Trace.

Government guidelines require pubs, bars and restaurants to store these details for 21 days. Airship’s new system automatically deletes customer data after 21 days, though it gives customers the opportunity to sign up for the venue’s database during the registration process.

To collect the data, Airship asks customers to register their details and authenticate them through a reply SMS with a code. If a customer returns to the outlet within 21 days, they do not need to re-register – they simply scan a QR code displayed in the venue. After 21 days, returning customers will need to register again.


Nightlife and dining guide app Dusk has set up its own system for collecting customer details.

Dusk provides venues with a PDF poster that features a unique QR code, which should be displayed in the bar, pub or restaurant. Customers scan the QR code with their phone and are taken to a form to give their contact details and consent for Covid-19 tracing.

Customers will receive an email with instructions on how to contact Dusk should they test positive for the virus, and Dusk will contact its database of affected customers only in the event of an outbreak. As with Airship, data is deleted after 21 days.


Launching 1 July, Glug is a new app that allows for contactless ordering and payment.

The platform was developed over the course of three years by Joshua Burke, co-founder of immersive experience Bongo’s Bingo, with Carl Whiteside and Lewis Allbones.

To use Glug, customers download the app, which lets them view the outlet’s full menu, place their orders and pay for their food and drink without the need for cash or cards.

Ultimately, Glug aims to list thousands of venues, helping users to plan their dining experiences while giving venues the tools to reduce contact as much as possible.


Retail platform Ubamarket has tailored its mobile technology to the needs of the hospitality industry in a new app called UBarmarket.

UBarmarket has already been adopted by the grocery sector, providing retailers such as Budgens and Londis with white-label solutions for in-store shopping. The new UBarmarket project expands these capabilities for on-trade venues, offering contactless payments, the ability to order through the app and loyalty schemes for customers.

Ubarmarket’s features represent a key solution to a number of the challenges posed by increased safety and hygiene measures, by enabling features such as in-app payments and remote ordering which can dramatically cut down on person-to-person contact, overcrowding, and potentially dangerous interactions in the venue,’ commented Will Broome, CEO of Ubamarket.


Brewing company Heineken UK has partnered with online booking system Togo to develop Swifty, a payment and loyalty app.

Swifty was designed specifically to help on-trade operators reduce contact in their venues as they reopen after lockdown. It allows customers to make bookings, view menus, place orders and pay from their phones.

The app also ‘seamlessly integrates with existing EPOS systems’, letting business owners monitor their sales and their customers’ buying preferences so they can use these insights to aid their recovery.

Matt Rix, Heineken UK’s head of data-driven commerce for the on-trade, believes that the app is ideally positioned among the solutions available to venues: ‘While Swifty is a technology solution, it has the benefit of being backed by Heineken’s wealth of experience in the hospitality industry,’ he commented. ‘By combining our expertise as brewers, retailers and suppliers with an industry-leading mobile solution, we’re able to uniquely provide our customers with the means to kickstart their operations once lockdown has been lifted.’

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