Fancy some fish and chips, a pint of beer or ordering food from a table at a busy outdoor venue?

Before restrictions enforced due to coronavirus, there would have been an old-fashioned British solution. Queue. But a Derby tech company has changed the outlook of many thousands of customers who now turn to an app.

App4, based at Sadler Bridge Studios, came to the rescue of businesses who had struggled to see a way out of lockdown. These included well-known fish and chip shop chain George’s Tradition, which had to close down because it could not cope with telephone orders.

App4 created a bespoke app in a week and quickly the company was selling 3,500 meals a day to hungry customers. The app allowed customers to order from the full George’s Tradition menu and select an allotted time to pick up their food. This also enabled George’s Tradition to maintain social distancing because of a defined number of slots in each 15-minute period.

Chairman Andrew Constantinou said the app had worked so well it would result in his business being remodelled after the national emergency. “I don’t see the app disappearing. We are wholly relying on it to produce income at the moment and I now accept that this is very much part of the way forward,” he added.

App4 specialises in takeaway apps and its clients include around 100 fish and chip shops across the country. Managing director Ian Chambers said: “In George’s Tradition’s case, we worked with them closely to define the specification and, after a couple of very quick modifications, it was working brilliantly.

“We can do these changes because we are not reliant on foreign companies for software – we make all the changes here in Derby with a team that understands exactly what the client wants and needs.”

On July 4, people were allowed into pubs for the first time in more than three months and again App4 was keeping the public safe. It was highlighted on national television for devising an app which meant pubgoers could order drinks and food from their seats.

Indeed, WA Pubs chief executive Lee Forshaw believes that evolution, which has taken his customers from cash to contactless card, will now take them to the app. His chain in the north-west had already been using a bespoke app from App4 which meant it was in place for re-opening.

Mr Forshaw said: “We have to discourage customer movement the best we can but do not want to stop people from enjoying themselves when they are out socialising.

“We think allowing people to tell our staff what they want, pay and get it delivered through an app makes the customer experience better.”

Meanwhile, App4 changed the mindset of the owner of a popular Greater Manchester market, who admitted he was opposed to using technology until it helped him restore his business to near pre-Covid levels. Around 100 members of staff at Altrincham Market had been put on redundancy notice but almost all jobs will be saved after it reopened.

Its owner, Nick Johnson, said a bespoke app, designed by App4, had been a key factor in the market’s bounce back. He said it was also being used at his other sites at Manchester’s Mackie Mayor and Macclesfield’s Picturedrome and their levels of trade were following suit.

Nick said: “Pre-lockdown, we were feeding 30,000 people a week. We are a busy operation, employing 300 people.

“Our three locations are people-driven, social experiences around food and drink, so our decision was how do we resurrect ourselves using technology – without diminishing the social aspect of what it is to come to one of our venues.

“The app has got us to the closest point where it can happen without undue interference in the interaction of family, friends and food.

“I had been very reluctant to embrace technology in respect of our business but, having worked with App4 and now operated an app across each of our reopened venues, we have found it allows us to reach a balance of tech supporting the experience rather than tech interfering with it.

“Actually, there are very many octogenarians who are showing they are adept with technology. They realise they are the most vulnerable to coronavirus and can most benefit from the app, which will help keep them remote in a social setting. “I don’t see the app disappearing. We are wholly relying on it to produce income at the moment and I now accept that this is very much part of the way forward.”

Mr. Chambers added: “We are busy helping companies who have been desperate to trade for months. It is excellent to see their business coming back so quickly through the use of technology which they wouldn’t have otherwise considered. “Now they all agree, it is here to stay.”

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