I'm scared of robots.

Not in a 'they're going to destroy us and take over the world' sense. I just don't want to be served by one of them at the bar.

This scenario has been playing on my mind because yesterday I chaired a panel debate at the PUB18 trade show on the advancements of technology in the pub world.

I approached it with a sense of trepidation, fearing what the experts would predict could be in store for us pub lovers in the next few decades.

Thankfully, they tended to agree that most tech changes would be behind the scenes and, unless people want it any other way, we will continue to order our pints from real life human beings.

Phew.

Just because pubs could introduce ordering screens like a McDonald's, it doesn't mean they should.

That said, the panel also suggested we would soon be paying for pints with our fingerprints or scans of our eyeballs, and that in the not too distant future customers might be regularly roaming about in virtual reality headsets. That didn't sound so clever to me.

 

 

Anyway, I was contemplating robots and payment methods on the train back home when I had to make a change for a connection. The electronic noticeboard kindly informed me that I had 37 minutes until my next train.

This gave me two options:

1. Wait on the platform in the cold, or
2. Go to the nearby Spoons for a quick lunch.

But would 37 minutes be enough to get there and back and have bite to eat?

With 36 minutes and 56 seconds left on the clock I opted to chance my arm and, if things didn't go to plan, just get a later train.

It was after lunchtime, but the bar was busy and there was only one member of staff serving. The later train was looking like the favourite at this stage. It was then that I remembered that one of the PUB18 panellists had previously told me to check out the Wetherspoons app.

At the time I had thought that I couldn't really see why pubs would need apps to provide an ordering service. Isn't going to the bar and talking to the staff one of the things that makes a pub a pub?

But I was in a hurry and, as good as Spoons' are at many things, the banter at the bar doesn't tend to be one of their stronger suits.

I downloaded the app, which took less time than it did for me to find the app store icon on my phone.

 

 

The interface was a doddle. Within another two minutes I had ordered my food and drink (for under a fiver!), inputted my location and table number and entered my payment details.

By the time I had finished there were still people waiting to get served at the bar who had been there from before I walked through the doors.

The proof of the pudding though would not be in the eating, but in how long it would take for my order to get from cyberspace to the folks in the kitchen or bar.

Not long it turns out. The manager brought me my drink within five minutes and within another five my food was on the table.

The only words I had spoken to anyone in the pub were 'thank you' and 'do you have any tomato sauce?'

Not long after, a member of staff checked-back, I polished off all my food and actually found myself with a little time to kill before going back to catch the train.

The app, unlike many others I have sampled, did exactly what it was supposed to.

Now, I don't want all my pub experiences to be like this. Normally I prefer to take my time over things, stretch my legs, have a chat and a good old nose around the pub.

But there are times when you just want convenience and that is when an easy-to-use app can play a part in adding to a pub's offer.

Technology, like robots, should not be feared but instead used wisely to enhance what you already do.