At a time when maintaining required social distancing is a dilemma occupying much of the hospitality industry, a new technology launched this week seems well placed to assist its recovery.
The GPS app, which is the first of its kind in the Irish marketplace, allows business owners to document and broadcast their venues’ compliance standards and the availability of space on their premises to their customer base.
The technology equips patrons with the knowledge needed to make real-time decisions around where they can go to socialise safely.
“Publicans, restaurateurs and so many other business owners throughout the country are preparing to get back to work, but they are struggling to see how they can maintain compliance standards and still operate their business, while keeping costs down,” explains Ordee co-founder Anthony Cronin.
When the time comes, people will be itching to get out and socialise again - but there is a consistent air of concern amongst the public as to how they can do this safely.
"With Ordee we have basically taken these key obstacles that businesses are facing, developed solutions to address them, and centralised these solutions in one easy to use app.”
Potential customers can check venues in real time to see which currently has space, and can book based on availability.
Once the user chooses a venue and arrives at the location, they receive a notification to confirm they are there and how many people are in their party, in which case the app will update the venue’s status accordingly.
The app can also be used to order and pay for drinks and food. In its first week, 200 businesses signed up to arrange a demo of the software.
“People are cognisant of the fact that they don’t want their behaviour, or the behaviour of others, to put themselves or others in jeopardy.
"The Ordee app is designed to go some way to alleviating these concerns”.
Because the app is deemed an e-commerce solution, businesses may be able to avail of the LEO Trading Online Voucher to do so.
“Cashflow is very tight for most businesses at the moment and compliance with Covid-19 protocols is going to incur additional costs. To offset these, the Government have put in place supports - one of which is the Local Enterprise Trading Online grant and businesses can use it to sign up for Ordee.
If your application is accepted, LEO will fund 90% of the cost of the platform for your business. While there are terms and conditions, the process is very simple and effective.
The Ordee software emerged from a previous product developed by Anthony and his co-founder, Criostóir O’Codlatáin Lachtna, called Wowit in 2016.
The geolocation app was designed to allow consumers find things to do in their immediate vicinity, and was a finalist in the Waterford best young entrepreneur competition.
The pair also developed the award winning payroll app, Flexiwage, a HPSU client with Enterprise Ireland operating in Ireland the UK and Australia with over 15,000 users a month.
Flexiwage allows employees to schedule their wages, without impacting on an employers monthly processing schedule.
“We were able to use the infrastructure and development already completed on Wowit, which saved us months in development time and also insured that the product was robust upon release as the infrastructure has been tested vigorously already.
"We have been inundated by requests for Ordee demos and the reaction has been very positive. We have partnered up with the Restaurants Association of Ireland and are beginning demos for their members next week.
"The feedback is that this is exactly what is required for them to get back to work safely and compliantly and open as soon as possible,” he added.
With careful customer flow and the management of safe practices amongst the key issues facing the hospitality industry, the Ordee app is designed to allow venues broadcast their compliance to both customers and government regulations.
“The queuing features can be used for both crowd management coming into the venue as well as queues for toilet facilities.
"No contact ordering and payments are also sent through the app, helping staff to cut down on the difficulty of maintaining socials distancing while serving the customers.”
The cloud-based platform allows staff log in from any of their own devices to receive notifications, accept or reject bookings and manually update capacity for customers who do not have the app.
Capacity can also be divided to maintain available spaces for walk-ins and regulars.
In the ever-evolving Covid-19 landscape, the Ordee developers aim to tweak the app further in response to potential industry demands.
"As a result of the developing situation we’ve made the product responsive to changes, and can be updated as required.
"The reporting which may be required by authorities is one of the major pieces of feedback we have received, and as a result we’ve developed a reporting suite for the system in order to show compliance. Another piece of feedback that we have taken on board is the flow of people once they are inside the venue and how to manage this.
"We are working with Blackrock hurling club on features such as queuing for the bathroom and checklists which can be rolled out into the app in a future release.
"Unfortunately this ‘new normal’ looks like it will be with us for some time and we will have to evolve along with it,” he says.
However, while the operation of the Irish pub may have to change with the new safety requirements, Anthony does not subscribe to the idea that this most visible aspect of our culture is now in decline:
“Hospitality is in our DNA and we are world renowned for it. I’m sure if we all work together we will all come out the other side of this and be socialising again and be back stronger than ever.
"The current focus has to be on getting as many businesses as possible back on track,” he believes, adding that the government will have to play a major role in this in working innovative technologies and solutions to help businesses get back on track and reopen safely.
Obviously these are very unprecedented times which nobody could of envisaged even a few months ago.
"Ireland as a country and people have responded well during this crisis and although there will no doubt be tough times ahead in the short term, our resilience as a people will see us come back again in all aspects of our economy, not just hospitality.”