/ Consumer Rights

Are you comfortable ordering drinks via apps?

How do you feel about ordering in pubs and restaurants via apps? Could we potentially be handing over more than just our cash?

Ordering through apps at pubs and bars became the new normal while social distancing measures were in place.

Though restrictions are now over, many pubs and restaurants are still offer the option of ordering food and drink through an app on your phone rather than going to the bar.

No longer having to stand like sardines at the bar might feel like the safer option when visiting your local, but could it come at the cost of handing over personal data? Many apps will ask you to hand over a wealth of data such as your name, data of birth, contact details and, of course, payment information.

But the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) recently told the BBC that you’re under no obligation to share this information – and you might want to think twice before volunteering your data. But how do you feel about handing over your data to the pub? Do you prefer to order the pre-covid way?

Swapping data for convenience?

The ICO’s rules state that venues should only ask for data that’s ‘relevant and necessary’ – its Director of Data Protection told the BBC that she thinks it can be too easy for people to input their information without actually understanding fully where that information may be shared or why it’s being used.

Do you check the smallprint before using an app to see how your data could be used?

Some will feel that the convenience of not having to leave your seat makes for a more efficient service, while others may find it needlessly complicated or in some cases be unable to use an app entirely not everyone has a smartphone after all.

How do you feel about ordering food and drinks via an app?
Loading ... Loading ...

Has your phone become cluttered with apps from different bars and pubs? Have you taken a look at exactly what information is being collected at any stage?

Let us know if you’ve found app-ordering a faff and are happy to be back at the bar.

Phil McMenemy says:
31 August 2021

OK, I may not be Victor Meldrew just yet (I’m 60) but what a faff. It seems to take about 15 minutes to register my details and then scroll though to select a couple of drinks. I am not comfortable leaving my details so tend delete the app as soon as I have ordered. We are not regulars at any particular bar and tend to only have one drink. So much easier to go to the bar of have someone come over and take the order. is it too much to ask?

I first came upon this in Castleton (Peak District) last July. I don’t have a ‘smart’ phone – their screens are far too small for me to read. I am not going to lug a tablet about. We went across the road to order our drinks conventionally elsewhere.

Doffis says:
31 August 2021

If download use up data or first log in to guest WiFi. Download app. I would go somewhere else or not bother. Too much of a faf

Martyn Cooper says:
3 September 2021

That’s ok until it becomes the norm and all venues do it.

I have not been going into pubs during the pandemic but visit two local pubs which serve outdoors. That is safer for the customers and the staff, and no app is needed.

I have no problem with using an app to order drinks but as Hannah has pointed out, your data could be shared.

I prefer to order drinks via my iPhone. I prefer to remain seated except for going to the loo. If it’s not an establishment or chain that I frequent, then instead of an app I prefer a simple web page where the only data you enter is your table number and what you want to order, followed by payment by Apple Pay. There should be no need to give one’s name or any other data.

Wahaca has something like this, but only for paying the bill, not for ordering. It’s a step in the right direction though.

If I register my details with an app, then I expect to get something in return, for example special offers such as discount vouchers. Divulging one’s personal data then becomes little different from any other loyalty scheme.

In busy places or when I’ve been travelling such as the airport, I prefer using an app. Saves me worrying about leaving bars unattended or trying to carry everything up to the bar and waiting to get someones attention.

Richard Jones says:
3 September 2021

These ‘detail Hoovers’ hold no attraction to me, they feel like a disincentive to visit the establishments in question. I might be happy to order from a web menu, give a table number and make payment when the order is delivered to the table using a contactless card. However, we have been shielding due to my wife’s health, so the question has not arisen. As her health has taken a recent unsatisfactory turn, I am even less likely to face the question of installing such an unwanted item. The slowness of my elderly mobile might mean the meal was over, or I died of thirst, before I could wander through an app wonderland install anyway.

Philip Reynolds says:
3 September 2021

I don’t have a smart phone so could not and don’t want to use an app.

There are several pubs at which the app is the only method of ordering . On a few occasions I’ve been confronted with an app that I haven’t been able to operate [ I’m 63 years old ] and after trying for 20+ minutes , I have left and gone to a different pub . Sometimes even the staff can’t get the app to work .

Phillip isn’t the only person who does not have or want a smart phone.

Trevor Williams says:
3 September 2021

Freedom Day

It was Freedom Day
It was the hottest day of the year, so far
We had just got off the boat at Buckler’s Hard.
All I wanted was a beer.

We went through the back gate of the posh Master Builder’s Hotel, but were told they could not serve us as they had a large function today. They said their associated pub the Yachtsmen’s Bar, round the corner should be opening at 1.00pm.

Being impressed, we took the opportunity of booking a table for the following day for a posh lunch in their garden. We watched the wedding from over the hedge outside.
After all, I only wanted a beer!

At 1.00pm we sat on a bench outside the pub.
A young lad, clearing glasses was asked “Can I have a beer and a cup of tea for my wife?”
“Yes, of course” he said, “But you have to order it on the App.”
“What App?” I said.
“The App on your phone” he replied, assuming I had a phone. “Just use the QR code”
“What QR code?” I said, pulling my Samsung mobile telephone from my pocket.
“You need to download this from your App store, which one do you use”
“I don’t” I replied. The sun was too bright to read the phone, so we then sat inside.
All I wanted was a beer!

Obligingly and patiently he pressed a few keys on my phone (with my permission) and up popped some peculiar mosaic pattern. “The rest is easy; just download the pub’s menu.”
It seemed several minutes before he realised there was no internet connection.
“Actually” he said, “I am more familiar with the workings of an iPhone!”
At which point my wife pulled out her Apple iPhone, and he began all over again.
All I wanted was a beer!

My wife was becoming extremely anxious about my blood pressure rising and the anxiety and stress I was being subjected to, and realised how necessary that beer was to be.
Having set up her phone he told me what beer options I had, I said “Doom Bar” but by the time I decided, he had lost the signal and withdrew outside with my wife and her phone to complete the transaction.
Well not quite, he returned to me to say “Doom Bar is off.” At this stage I could not care less what brand, so long as it was brown and cold.
All I wanted was a beer!

I had cash in my purse, notes in my wallet, between us umpteen credit and debit cards, never borrowed a penny since our mortgage 60 years ago, DB cleared, no police record, and with two other staff behind the bar just a few feet away.
All I wanted was a beer!

It was 1.50pm. A beer arrived. “Where is my wife’s tea” I said.
“Oh! We can no longer offer tea” was the answer.
I stood up and said to my wife, “Can’t stand any more of this, we’ve been here 50 minutes – let’s go!”
She said “You can’t, it is already paid for through their App”
“What!!!” I said, nearly bursting a blood vessel. I sat down.
I drank my beer——– my wife looked on, really thirsty for some tea!
All she wanted was a cup of tea.

Naturally, I proceeded through the bar to the hotel reception to cancel our posh lunch booking for the following day and to register my complaint. I did praise for the young lad for his patience and understanding who was only obeying orders. Of course the decision to only use the App was not his decision. It was some nerd upstairs intent on genocide to kill off a whole nation of OAPs

That evening on BBC South was footage of that wedding. Their cameraman obviously had no idea of the Breaking News in the bar next door.

My sympathies, Trevor, especially with being offered Doom Bar.

Nothing wrong with Doom Bar!

I’ve enjoyed a few from the bottle at home during my absence from the pub. It alternates with Ghost Ship and seems to appeal to a wide range of drinkers who we have entertained over the last year or so. Being a Friday, tonight’s tipple is London Pride.

There is nothing wrong with Doom Bar if you like bland beer and don’t mind supporting Molson Coors rather than a UK company. I used to like London Pride in the days when the choice of real ale was restricted but I’m not going to look out for it now that Fullers is owned by Asahi. I guess I’ll join you with a pint of Ghost Ship, John.

Fullers is still an independent pub and hotel company with a beer supply contract with Asahi to whom it sold the brewery. The beer is still brewed to the Fullers recipe and still brewed in Chiswick. As it happens, nowadays I quite like an easy-going beer rather than something too hoppy.

Given the choice, I prefer to support UK companies rather than just ones that manufacture here. My tastes have changed and I do appreciate the wide range of hops used in brewing. Sadly, I understand that most of them are imported. 🙁

It is true that a lot of the ‘modern’ ales from small breweries, as well as most of those from the huge multinational brewers, are brewed with imported hops but there are good traditional beers available from UK breweries made with English hops and barley. Luckily around here we have access to some good local brewers including Batemans, Elgoods, Adnams, Woodforde and Wolf plus a number of more esoteric local concoctions which I generally avoid.

I ticked ‘having the option of both’. I rarely frequent pubs – the price of drinks is far too high for a start but not having to stand at the bar at busy times and order/buy drinks/food is a blessing. Its even better if your order iss taken by staff at the table but an app is ok. I dont recall having to give too much personal info or whether I had the option not to but its certainly something I shall look out for in future.

Trevor says it all in his brilliant piece. If any pub or restaurant wishes me to use my phone and enter my life history to get a meal or a drink then I’ll do without and go elsewhere. This is taking electronic data to extremes and forcing Apps on people who don’t want them on their phones. I don’t want to use my mobile phone to pay for things either. I have cash in my pocket and cards as well. Perhaps the government should step in and insist that these means of payments must be accepted. I don’t accept that mobile payment and apps are the way forward or that that they are moving with the times. If restaurants want us to order electronically they should have tablets on the table to do so. These should display menus and nothing else. Electronic machines have batteries that go flat and require a signal to operate. Personal information stored on them can be public information without the user realising this, if the apps are “leaky” or the phone/ Wi-Fi hot spot is bugged. Why should the cautious always be slated for being behind the curve? I hope that there are enough of us to make the Avant-Garde think again.

Quite right Vynor. We should simply have a choice. I like the idea of an electronic device on the table. The other option is for “them” to place a holder on the table containing paper printed with the food and drink offerings and you then use your voice to communicate your selection to an employee. Then use a contactless card if you must to avoid any human contact – except with the doors, furniture, glasses, cutlery and comfort rooms. Or remove tokens from your wallet or purse in exchange for their hospitality.

Douglas says:
3 September 2021

All these establishments should be required to post a perominent notice outside saying
“We conduct our busines exclusively via smart phones. YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED”
Trevor could then have gone elsewhere and saved himself a lot of time and trouble.

That would be tantamount to putting up a notice saying: “We don’t serve people with disabilitites here”. It’s not going to happen if they want to avoid prosecution and stay in business, so best to call them out and remind them of the requirement to make reasonable adjustments for those that can’t manage a smartphone – or can’t read.

I don’t think that is the case, no more than a businesses saying “cash not accepted”. However, it would hopefully be seen to have a deleterious affect on the business and common sense would prevail, now the pandemic is less of an issue and life is beginning to resume some sort of normality.

A friend thought of a good name for a dating app for old folks.
I’ve fallen for you and I can’t get up.

(Please, no inappropriate IT inserts!)

On a related topic, I’m becoming increasingly irritated by local councils encouraging the use of payment by phone parking Apps. They are all different!

I’ve visited three Kent / East Sussex / West Sussex towns in August. I now have a collection of three different Apps on my phone: MiPermit, PaybyPhone and RingGo. Each one initially takes about five minutes to register, confirm your email via SMS, enter vehicle details and credit card, let alone the location code and time you actually want to park for.

One of them (I don’t remember which) even has the cheek to add a co-called 10p “convenience charge”. Surely, it’s not unreasonable to expect all councils to offer the same payment options and to pay any transaction charges themselves?

Visa and Mastercard are accepted worldwide and it is illegal to charge extra for using this payment method. Surely, councils with a 30 mile radius can manage this. Or do we need another Which? press release and more government legislation before anything happens?

This is very true, I have accumulated quite a few over the last few months. All of which are an absolute pain to register and get paid, so you can actually get going to where you need to be. Thanks for sharing.

Chirag – Your support for Em’s comment is appreciated . . . but will Which? be doing anything about it?

I have noticed that most drivers at pay-&-display car parks in our area continue to use cash or card payment but the number of pay machines that accept cash is dwindling and there are often queues. Why can’t local authorities just do what the public wants?

I wonder how many people have been fines for parking without paying as they try to download an app.

Twice I have found myself in car parks that wanted payment by app. One was ultra expensive that my friend chose to park in and we had to trust the warden not to give her a ticket while we went to get some cash for the machine. My friend had paid by credit card previously but this facility was no longer available. I had to leave another car park as the only way to pay was by app.

Paying by app is definitely discrimination against those who don’t have smartphones or who choose to keep and use their phones long after support for them ends. What is wrong with credit cards?

It is not just pubs and parking apps, almost every website I visit now wants me to download an app! I actively resist adding any more apps to my phone or tablet unless they have a really important function when you are out and about – like What 3 Words, or Uber. i access my bank on my main computer and won’t have banking apps on my phone either.

Just what has the world come to? To do something so simple as buy a drink requires a purchaser to hand over personal information to the vendor, his agents and who knows what third parties lurking in the darkness. I have to purchase expensive equipment, I have to learn how to use it, I have to make regular monthly payments to be able to use it, I have to acquire the necessary software to enable me to comply with their equipment and their processes, I have to understand that software to be able to use it, I have to understand their processes to be able to use it properly, I have to make arrangements with my bank in order to pay for what I am buying, I have to acquire more necessary software to enable me to comply with their equipment and their processes, I have to invent and not write down but remember yet another username, email address and password in order to meet the bank’s security requirements, I have to .. oh I’ve quite given up because it’s all to sodding complicated.
Those who think this is perfectly acceptable are either deluded or fools. I worry that they’re winning.

So if you don’t have a smartphone, you could no longer go to the pub? Is this really fair to all?
If they said women, or people with a disability, couldn’t order a drink at a bar, there would be uproar, and quite right too, but it seems quite OK to discriminate against those who are not happy with today’s technology.

Far too many severely disabled folk are EXcluded from far too many things too, and I mean things far more essential than pubs, but no-one ever wants to know, unless it involves a white or a wheelchair.

I do not have a “smart” phone and do not want one. I also use cash for small purchases, less than about £10 to £20. I deplore the concealed attempts by banks and, I suspect the government, to abolish cash. The rise in the use of these so-called technologies is placing us at risk by giving away our data, and so allowing businesses and perhaps a malevolent government to track us and monitor our actions. We are sleep-walking into the dystopia of 1984.

I think the change is in making purchases easier without using cash rather than an attempt to banish cash. The latter will not happen but it is consumers who embrace these new “technologies” and alter the balance.

Many including myself was concerned about the introduction of contactless cards but now use them frequently. Closure of banks, removal of ATMs and ungrounded concerns about the risk of infection from handling cash have contributed to the decrease in use of cash.

I’m now happy to pay for a half pint of beer by contactless card or phone, but for the time being I will avoid pubs that require use of apps. Are there any pubs that insist on them rather than just encourage their use?

I don’t like ordering via an App. We had to do it whilst on Holiday in May and I would have much preferred to have someone take my order. I tend to be very careful when doing things and it takes forever to download and get started and I really don’t like paying via my phone. I use contact less card all the time and this is fine but I am cautious when using the phone.

Paul M says:
10 September 2021

I don’t like the idea of using an app, it seems another example of using technology as a gimmick. I have found pubs with waiter service the best and I wish this would stay, much like it has always been in Europe.