Scottish technology companies are helping venues rise to the challenge
BAR, pub and restaurant operators have been turning to technology to help them keep in contact with customers for years.
But in the age of COVID-19, a database of customer contact details has gone from being a useful tool to a public health necessity.
As of Friday, August 14 it became mandatory for Scottish hospitality businesses to record contact details for every staff member and visitor (or, in the case of a small household group, one ‘lead customer’) and store them securely for 21 days, at which point they should be disposed of.
This is in order to help the NHS Scotland Test and Protect system, which will use the details to contact people in the event of a customer testing positive for COVID-19.
Shortly after the rules were announced a number of Scottish companies introduced new software and apps to help hospitality venues comply with the guidelines.
Patrick Clover, founder of Stampede, which provides wi-fi and digital marketing services to hospitality companies, said the guidance provided to the industry from government was “frankly woeful”.
“It lacked clarity and eschewed responsibility, putting the onus on venues to act responsibly and find their own solutions,” said Clover.
“Pub owners care about the health and safety of their customers, but most won’t know where to get started with data collection, security and privacy, nor will they want to risk spoiling the experience by making customers jump through hoops.”
Stampede’s answer was to add new functionality to its service, enabling venues to collect customer contact details via wi-fi or by having the customer scan a QR code.
Similarly, QR codes are utilised by a new app created by Hamill Digital Healthcare in Glasgow.
Safe2Go allows visitors to provide their contact details via their phone, which are then encrypted and stored for 21 days before being automatically deleted.
The company’s founder, Louise Hamill – a former doctor – said the Safe2Go app “saves staff time and removes the headache and burden involved in data protection regulations as the business never has access to the personal details which are recorded”.
“Additionally, visitors are given the reassurance that they are visiting a venue which is being proactive about contact tracing and being responsible with their personal data,” said Hamill.
Other companies, such as Glasgow tech firm Connect, found that technology it had already launched is now particularly suited to helping venues navigate the new coronavirus environment.
The company’s service allows venues to create their own branded app which customers can use to order and pay at their table. The app is also able to record and store contact details, helping venues assist with the Test and Protect requirements.
Director Stuart Stott said that although Connect was not originally designed with the pandemic in mind, “the services it provides will help restaurants and bars as they adapt to new ways of working”.
Other companies, such as EPOS Hybrid, focused on helping venues streamline ordering and payment.
New software from the company enables customers to order and pay from their phones, which will help venues to maintain social distancing.
“As soon as the UK went into lockdown, we knew the hospitality sector would need to quickly adapt – not only to meet the changing market conditions, but to meet a range of new legislation and strict guidelines put in place by the government in light of COVID-19,” said the company’s Andrew Gibbon.