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'It gave us confidence to reopen': How Guinness is helping pubs welcome customers back

One Dublin publican shares his experience of reopening – and the transition to a table-booking and online ordering system.

Glass screens between tables at TapHouse Bar & Kitchen - but physical changes were only part of the transition
Glass screens between tables at TapHouse Bar & Kitchen - but physical changes were only part of the transition

IRELAND’S PUBS AND bars are currently facing an unprecedented challenge, with premises across the country counting the cost of months of closure. 

Some have been able to open their doors, operating as restaurants serving food. But many others were unexpectedly left with the shutters down when planned openings on July 20 were pushed back.

Even for those that have been able to reopen, adapting to the ‘new normal’ with food service and strict 105-minute time slots has been a huge challenge. 

“The first thing was physically getting the pub ready,” says Adam Kilbane, managing partner at TapHouse Bar & Kitchen in Ranelagh. “Getting custom-built screens, removing furniture, to a point where it felt safe for the public and the staff.”

But once that obstacle was overcome, it wasn’t just back to business as usual. “Once we had that done, the challenge was accepting reservations and managing bookings,” he says. “It’s become a huge admin exercise.”

To help pubs manage this major transition in the way they work, Guinness recently announced a partnership with digital platform anyExcuse. Thanks to this, any pub can sign up for free table bookings, table service and click and collect services for six months. 

Guinness' partnership with anyExcuse helps pubs manage online booking and ordering Source: Guinness

Through anyExcuse, customers can book a table, order food and drinks, and pay using their own smartphone – creating a safer environment for staff and visitors by reducing close interactions.

“It gave us confidence to be able to reopen,” says Adam. “We needed something to reduce contact, to make people feel safer, so we’re not putting menus in their face. It works great, it absolutely helps.”

Currently about three-quarters of customers at TapHouse are booking in advance, he says. Having booked a slot, you arrive on the day and are greeted by a manager and showed to your table. 

Once seated, you’re given a single-use paper sheet which has the food menu on the front, and a QR code on the back. Running your smartphone camera over the QR code – no app required – will bring you to the dedicated anyExcuse ordering platform. 

“You sign in, it asks you for a table number, and then you’re good to order,” says Adam. “All our menus are in there, we don’t have to pass you anything else. And if you order through anyExcuse, you pay through anyExcuse.”

As well as helping customers feel safe and secure, the platform helps tackle the challenge of serving meals in a tight time window. “Where anyExcuse really helps us is getting those food orders in,” says Adam. “It allows us to have less floor staff presenting at tables, and it gives the chefs a good read of what’s happening, because they see the orders in real time.”

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TapHouse Bar & Kitchen in Ranelagh, Dublin. Its sign board features a 'thank you' to frontline workers Source: TapHouse Bar & Kitchen

Of course, the real test is whether the atmosphere that’s crucial to a good pub has returned. Adam gives this the thumbs up – the environment is different, he says, “but the vibe is still there.” He credits anyExcuse as a contributing factor, saying it helps create confidence among staff and customers alike. ”It feels like a community came back to life.”

And while the current environment is still extremely uncertain, there are parts of the new system which could stay into the future. “I think there are elements of this that we’d like to keep,” he says. “It takes the pressure off people ordering with a waiter standing at the table. It’s better use of the customer’s time.”

At the moment, though, there is plenty to keep the staff at TapHouse busy. And opening the doors again after four months? “It was great,” says Adam. “It was a high point, in my entire career.” 

By partnering with anyExcuse, Guinness is providing the Irish hospitality industry with FREE table booking, table service and click & collect services for six months. All licensed trade outlets across the island of Ireland, including both Diageo and non-Diageo customers, can now enjoy these services free of charge by signing up here.

Source: anyExcuse/YouTube

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