Fancy a pint in the pub? Starting July 4, you can have one, or even a mojito or orange juice, in England.
But you probably won’t be able to walk to the bar and order what you want.
And in many places, you may need an app for that.
The government has released a lengthy document, giving guidance to restaurants, pubs, and takeaways on all the steps they will need to take to operate safely.
Data protection legislation.
A paragraph stands out: “The opening of the economy after the Covid-19 outbreak is supported by the NHS Test and Trace. You must help this service by keeping a temporary record of your customers and visitors for 21 days, in a way that is manageable for your business and help NHS Test and Trace with requests for that data if needed. “
The details of the customer to be maintained, and how, are unclear.
But the government promises to work with industry “to design this system in accordance with data protection legislation and to set out details shortly.”
For restaurants and the fancy pub type where you can reserve a table for a meal, this shouldn’t be much of a problem.
Chances are they already have a system to record customer details.
They will simply have to manipulate it to make sure it collects everyone’s name, not just the person who pays.
But for thousands of old-fashioned boozers, the type where you go for a quick beer, it’s going to be much more difficult.
They may have difficulty establishing a reliable process to register their clients.
And the result could be a major change in pub culture.
Seeing an opportunity, dozens of app developers and payment platforms rush to offer services to pubs and restaurants as they prepare to open.
And I’ve asked three of them to imagine how their systems would work for a casual drinker to approach on a whim.
William Wright’s application, YoCa, incorporates Apple Pay, Google Pay and a pre-order system.
It has already been helping dozens of coffee shops continue through the close of supply by offering takeaway services.
You are now adapting the app to pubs.
But it became clear during our discussion that it would involve customers who order in advance and identify only the person who pays, not the others who might have faced a round.
Max Mallows has been helping art galleries manage clients through a service called ArtsVP.
And now you’re adapting it for pubs, like PubsVP.
Again, imagine a world where you book in advance to visit a pub.
But it is flexible enough to add additional names to the system if you bring a couple of friends.
And you don’t have to download the app.
You can simply visit a website to enter details.
But what about data protection, which the information commissioner has warned that pubs and restaurants that store customer data should consider?
Mallows admits that it will be complicated, since some data is in the hands of the pub and its company.
But their goal is to provide customers with a guarantee that the data will be deleted after 21 days.
The simplest approach I found was from a company called Eagle Eye.
And it relied on QR codes, a method already adopted in New Zealand.
Sales Director Al Henderson tells me what my client’s “journey” would be like.
“It appears in the Dog and Duck, it scans a QR code on the spot, which takes you to a website where you fill in your details, first name, last name, phone number, email address,” he says.
Then I receive my own QR code by phone, SMS or email, and use it when I pay.
Bars will have more information about customers who agree to receive marketing messages.
But it will be closely watched to ensure that those who don’t want to be contacted delete their details after 21 days.
Owner Peter Dunn says Ye Old Vaults, a pub in downtown Ashbourne, Derbyshire, used to thrive on Sky Sports events and live music, “none of which we can have now.”
And you may not see some of your repeat customers willing to fill out a form.
But Dunn, who also does a bit of web development, has an idea of what would work: the government contact tracking app that was archived last week.
“The licensees do enough work for the government, keeping tabs on underage drinking and the like, without burdening ourselves with that, too,” he says.
“So that’s a job an app could do much better than having owners remove personal information from their customers.”
If the NHS-branded Covid-19 app had already been implemented and the owners had required drinkers to prove they were using it before they were allowed in, you can imagine that there would have been a huge privacy dispute.
But instead, contact tracking technology is being privatized and taking responsibility for publicans.
And you can understand why they are not raising a glass for that.