Data Capture in Busy Food Outlets – That’s never going to happen, right?

Time for Change

As Boris Johnson uttered the most anticipated phrase this year, ‘1 meter plus’ and handed us over to our own ‘good judgement’, hospitality businesses around the UK began considering how they could effectively action the new guidelines that would allow them to reopen.  And, I’m sure, many were wondering how they would capture customer data in accordance with government requirements from people who are popping in for a pint with friends. Data capture in a busy food and drink outlet?  That’s never going to happen.  Well, in the new normal – it has to.

We live in unprecedented times where popping into the pub for a pint is no longer a casual and relatively anonymous activity.  Now, we must have table service and give, not only our names, but also our contact details for the pleasure.  How will pubs and small food and drink outlets cope with this added admin burden?

For restaurants with table reservation systems, it will be a much simpler process. A matter of enforcing a policy of capturing the information for every guest who walks through the doors and ensuring that no one is allowed to book using the generic email addresses of reservation@ (you know who you are).

I know from years of experience that data capture is challenging in the best of times.  If it’s not guests who refuse to give their precious details over for fear of marketing reprisals and endless junk emails, it’s staff who feel too harried and hurried, trying to maintain service standards.  Getting names and contact details from walk-ins was frequently pushed to the very bottom of their to-do lists, under clean the baseboards with a toothbrush.

This is no small task that the government asks of an industry that is always stretched to the breaking point in terms of time and keeping the tightest margins imaginable.

Smaller businesses and independent pubs who have no reservation systems will now have to implement record-keeping and put in place ways to safely keep this information for at least 21 days and enforce this new policy with staff.  Some might think they can do this by hand, writing the details in a ledger.  But handwriting is never accurate and, should the worse happen, how will these records be sent to the track and trace division of the NHS for follow-up.  Not every member of your team has perfect penmanship, and do you want the responsibility of letting the infection slip through because of unreadable text?

Some people might envisage using payment processing systems as a method of recording this information, however, not everyone pays by card and even if they do, how much more freedom will we give the government, marketing research companies and banks to track our every movement and spending habits?  The privacy implications are worth healthy debate.

How will your business deal with this requirement?  We’d love to hear your thoughts!