Opinion: Bluestone Lane's Liam Farrow on utilising technology to help beat Covid-19

Like for the rest of the world, the last six months has been incredibly challenging for our business. But as with all challenges it’s what you do to adapt that makes all the difference, says Liam Farrow, Digital Director, Bluestone Lane

Main image: Bluestone Lane Surf Lifesaving Club in Venice Beach, Los Angeles. Insert: Liam Farrow, Digital Director Bluestone Lane | Photo credits: Courtesy of Bluestone Lane

As with most businesses right now, technology has played a huge role in ensuring safety for staff and customers while allowing us to continue operating. I'd like to share how we have pivoted our business with safety and consumers as our priority.

Our app kept us open

Timing is everything and releasing our Order Ahead app back in December 2019 could not have come at a better time, even if we had planned it that way. Our app allows our customers to do exactly as it describes – pre-order their coffee and food for pick-up on arrival. No wait time, no queues – all while earning loyalty rewards.

By February 2020 we began to see great adoption from our locals in placing orders for pick-up. On 17 March 2020 as major cities locked down we were able to harness this technology and swiftly move to a contactless pickup at our limited number of locations that remained open.
Doubling down on the Bluestone Lane Order Ahead function meant we could save jobs, and, more importantly, keep our team safe with curbside and window pick-up. We wanted to be dependable and remain open, but had to do it safely.

Efficient integrated delivery

Onboarding third-party delivery also became a priority as we needed to offset the drop in foot traffic. By April 2020 we had moved away from the cumbersome process of manually accepting orders on tablets to having our third-party partners integrated at all locations.

"We want our locals to focus on enjoying time with friends and connect over a delicious brunch while feeling comfortable in their environment"

This improved efficiency for our teams allowing them to focus on quality product and less admin. Orders from these partners, despite the commissions and fees to customers, offered us another revenue lifeline.
We’ve also just released fully-integrated home delivery through our native loyalty app. That means locals can now order delivery through us directly, support our team, save on fees and earn loyalty all at the same time.

A new safe dining experience

During the first six weeks of Covid-19 we were in survival mode navigating the daily challenges of how to operate. As the weeks progressed and a new norm began to take shape, our leadership team began to ask what dining would look like in a Covid-19 world, and if it would even be possible. This led to rounds of conversations between senior management and marketing and ops teams about how to design a safe new dining experience:
How can we make it as safe as possible for our locals by using technology, not just for seeing the menu but placing orders? Can we remove the reliance on physical menus or our teams having to sanitise credit cards?

The simple task of closing out a cheque with a customer requires four close contact visits from your server. Could we remove this and put the safety of our team and locals as our No. 1 priority?

"We wanted to be dependable and remain open, but had to do it safely"

In response, we designed a seamless experience all in-house, built on top of our existing tech stack. This came with its challenges, but within six weeks we had QR codes set up on tables to order from, and a seamless system to support it.
We want our locals to focus on enjoying time with friends and connect over a delicious brunch while feeling comfortable in their environment.
Our team is always available if customers need them, but by reducing the reliance on them for taking orders and payment we are making our stores safer and happier for everyone.

One account & loyalty

In the new contactless world loyalty and perks are front and centre. Encouraging our locals to create an account in a single repository means we have been able to connect our App, Dining, E-Commerce and all communication tied to one account. This will allow us to implement artificial intelligence (AI) driven marketing automation of rewards that thank our locals for their continued support during tough trading conditions.

Liam Farrow is Digital Director at Bluestone Lane

This article was first published in Issue 5 of 5THWAVE magazine. 
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