Track and Trace Returns, with a twist

So, you thought it was safe to go out?

Well, from April 12 in the UK people will be allowed to dine and drink outside pubs, bars and restaurants in the UK. But, every single customer who visits an establishment will be required to check in and not just the person booking.

The official announcement will come on April 5, but Dan Brookman of airship.co.uk who offer useTrck.to to deliver track and trace has said that, based on their conference call with DHSC & NHS Test & Trace Policy Team on Friday 26th March, the guidance is as follows: 

  • Hospitality venues are legally required to ask ALL visitors and staff to provide their contact details OR to check in with the NHS COVID app.
  • Hospitality venues should verify that each individual (16+) has checked in using the QR code by reviewing the individual’s phone screen.
  • If visitors supply their contact details in advance (eg, through a booking system) they don’t need to sign in again at the venue however they can scan the QR code again if they wish.
  • All members of the group who did not provide contact details online still need to provide them at the venue or scan the QR code.
  • Hospitality venues MUST take responsible steps to refuse entry to a customer or visitor who does not provide their name and contact details or who has not scanned the QR code.
  • All staff must know and understand the rules, otherwise the business risks being fined for non-compliance. 

Additionally:

  • This will be for indoors & outdoors including beer gardens and pavements
  • Not necessary for takeaway/click and collect (as before)
  • Data collected as previously: Contact information, arrival time and if possible leaving time OR approximate dwell time.
  • If requested, data will need to be uploaded as per a template which will be provided in due course
  • Any notification of outbreak would NOT include the business details.
  • Customers will be advised to look out for symptoms. 

Dan, like many in hospitality, has voiced his disappointment with the requirement as it adds more work to the venue’s COVID-related task lists. As Dan says, this is a great disappointment since hospitality venues have been demonstrated to be one of the safer environments to visit due to the other requirements they have had to implement. Further, it was confirmed in the Guardian & The Times back in October about the waste of customer and operator effort that went into the operation due to the very few data requests that were made.

Marketing Opportunity?

Dan, with his useTrck.to offer, or your own home-built (DIY) system which you can build in an hour, are all acceptable for this and offer a great opportunity to capture guests’ data for marketing (if they opt-in) which you would never have had access to under ‘normal’ rules pre-COVID. Rates of opt-in went from an average of 1.5% of all customers pre-COVID to a staggering 41% in one case according to an analysis by Data Hawks. That’s a huge benefit to the restaurant – and one I highlighted in my post detailing how to build your own track and trace system in an hour last July.

Here’s to the Lazy Ones

But, there is a two-pronged pincer movement assaulting this marketing beachhead.

  1. Bias towards ease of use
  2. Vaccine passports

I really want to think that everybody will be happy to enter their details every time they visit a hospitality venue. But the third visit to the pub, the fifth visit to the coffee shop, or the second visit to your favourite restaurant might reveal people’s disposition.

Having a ‘scan-and-done’ option will certainly simplify the need for everybody in the party to do this. Each one will need to enter their details from their phone every time they visit. People are lazy and expect everything to be easy. We’ve been trained with this by our smartphones. With the launch of the upgraded NHS Track & Trace app, scanning a QR code with no need for data entry because the app already knows who you are becomes a preferred option.

Smart operators will need to think about adding a digital loyalty card that can be stamped on check-in. This does the same job as the NHS app but gives the venue the benefit of engaging with their customers. There are many players in this space, and companies like Cheerfy who offer public WiFi solutions and online ordering could extend their loyalty option to include COVID-compliant check-ins.

This is an opportunity for innovative players to step-up and provide the equivalent seamless check-in like the NHS Track & Trace app does.

The Nail in the Marketing Coffin

However, the biggest blow to the whole check-in and marketing angle was the announcement in the press today that the government is planning to roll out vaccine passports through the upgraded NHS Track & Trace app. The vaccine passports row exploded last month when ministers confirmed they were considering the idea – after a string of denials – as the introduction of such a scheme is seen as ‘divisive and discriminatory.’

Although the vaccine passport is intended to show the results of your recent COVID test (ie that you are negative and supposedly ‘safe’) or that you have been vaccinated, it could easily lead to discrimination through the refusal of entry to otherwise healthy people who may be unable to take the vaccine (for example for allergy or pregnancy). Furthermore, having the vaccine does not mean you cannot catch, carry or spread COVID, any less than if you had not had the vaccine. It just means you’re going to be asymptomatic. This is a health dilemma as, while the vaccine protects you, you can still pass it on and so the supposedly safe environment can be a spreading hot spot but may never be traced as such. (And I’m not sure how customers are supposed to look out for symptoms if people have been vaccinated and are asymptomatic.)

We will have to see where this situation goes but more than 300,000 signed petitions against it and the government have u-turned from saying they wouldn’t do it to clearly demonstrating they have been planning it through the implementation of the upgraded NHS Track & Trace app. Another petition raised last year received more than 330,000 signatures calling for no restrictions against people who refused the vaccine.

Wherever you fall on the spectrum, the introduction of the vaccine passport will mean that people will simply switch to the NHS Track & Trace app because they have to, and all the benefits you get through your own track and trace system will be short-lived. Enjoy the marketing buffet while it lasts!

What are your views on the requirement to track and trace every visitor to a hospitality venue? Feel free to comment below on any of the points raised in this post.

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