A FORWARD-thinking app which had been put on the back burner is now proving a great tool to help the hospitality industry fight some of the challenges caused by Covid-19.
And its creators have quickly adapted it yet again so that it can still benefit businesses during the latest lockdown.
W8R was first devised three years ago by North East entrepreneur and software developer, Kalvin Banks, who believed the way forward would be for people to be able to order at restaurants and bars direct from their smart device.
Other business commitments meant that Kalvin had to put the plan on ice – until coronavirus hit and he recognised the value the tableside software could bring to hospitality.
In recent times the W8R app has proved a huge success – with plans to roll it out nationwide.
The app acts as a virtual waiter, allowing customers to order and pay for food and drink via their phone by scanning a QR code at the venue.
Along with being convenient for customers, bars and restaurants which have signed up have also found it has helped boost sales, because of the ability to be able to order directly.
And now its fast-thinking creators have also added in a new element, which allows customers to use it to order via click and collect or to have food delivered.
Venues using the app, with the additional features, are also helping support the local economy as well as being able to use it to promote their offering to their customer base.
W8R has now created new QR codes which venues can share via social media, which customers just need to scan to get access to menus and to place their order.
“We have had venues tell us that they wouldn’t have survived without W8R because it’s so convenient and efficient,” said Kalvin.
“It helps with a faster turnover so more customers which is very important in these times with restricted numbers as there’s no waiting for bills or for staff to come and serve – it’s all done via the app.
“Since the news of a further lockdown we have worked to add in a new element so that bars and restaurants can still generate sales through delivery or click and collect.”
Kalvin is running the business alongside colleagues Christiano Crawford, who has vast experience of working in hospitality with some of the region’s top clubs and pubs and Chris Blench, who is bringing his expertise of taking products to market across a range of industries.
“I had first come up with this idea back in 2017 because I absolutely believed this was going to be the way forward and this kind of app was only available in Asia at the time,” said Kalvin.
“And when the hospitality industry was about to open again after lockdown I realised that it offered a perfect solution and so we worked solidly on it so that it was ready for the day venues were back in business.”
While currently most of the app’s venue are in the North East, there have also been sign-ups in London, Birmingham, Sheffield, Leeds and Nottingham.
Operators who are already using the app are full of praise.
Gordon Codona, who owns Players bars across the country including in Newcastle, said that it had made a “massive difference.”
“We initially put it in one venue to try and now we have it in all of them,” he said.
“Under normal circumstances we are vertical drinking venues but we had to adapt when people could no longer stand at the bar.
“W8R has allowed us to be really efficient and get orders to customers quickly which is really important and it has played a huge part in us being able to stay open.”
His words were echoed by Terry Haley, who owns The Drunken Duck, The Old Elm Tree and The Angel in Durham.
“The app has helped us find a way to operate in this current situation,” he said.
“We tried it out in one of our bars and it worked so well we have it in all of them now.
“It just made everything so much easier for us and allowed us to be able to adapt really quickly.”
Christiano said the app had also provided a great way for venues to upsell.
“Because you’ve got the menu in front of you and you can order directly, there’s no waiting about,” he said.
“Customers just sit down and start to order and the technology is able to convey which table they are sitting at so that the order comes straight to them with no need to input table numbers or anything like that – it’s purely all done by the QR code.”