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From designated driver to designated downloader

An image of a well stocked bar full of spirits

It wasn’t so long ago when we took it in turns to be the ‘designated driver’ – the person who drove mates to the pub, sacrificing a night’s drinking for the simple joy of a social occasion. But then the pandemic hit, and we were denied that same simple pleasure – of going for a drink or dinner with friends.

Fast forward 18 months, and now, while here in the UK we can now go to the pub or for dinner, the onus is on one of your party to ‘have the right app’. No-one really enjoys being the designated driver, and now that feeling in 2021 has shifted to the uneasy territory of being the evening’s digital director, or designated downloader.

The role of the designated downloader is complex, and it might help if you hold some sort of IT qualification. Not got a smart phone? Stay home, boomer.

Firstly, the designated downloader must ensure their phone has wifi, a memory-killing plethora of apps, payment mechanisms in place and, of course, enough battery to last the night. And all this, while trying to consume your own body weight in lager to get over the horrors of the pandemic.

Places don’t let you enter without checking in at the door using the NHS track and trace app. Once you’ve crossed the threshold and listened to an often overly-dramatic speech regarding the house rules and how to take a pee, most places then request that you order your drinks and food online, via app. That means checking which app the venue uses. And boy, are there a lot of them. Savvy app developers have created a raft of ordering apps – a swift business pivot if ever there was one.

The issue is, of course, to keep or not to keep? My phone is heaving with apps – mostly devoid of vowels – that promise to be the best ordering tool on the planet. But there isn’t one catch-all solution. Round, Yoello, Tabology, Pints ‘n’ Bites, Butlr, Dines, Noble, Overflow…never mind the growing number of chains with their own apps and independent stores with their own oh-so-easy payment solutions.

So then, having excitedly arrived at the pub, there’s a ten-minute fumble, connecting to wifi, finding the app, downloading it, trying to remain calm while setting up an account with yet another password, verifying the account via email and then, finally, with rasping throat and a tongue like sandpaper, finally being able – and allowed – to order.

Arguments are now occurring in pubs over who should download the app, and payment, of course, occurs before you’ve even received the drinks. That’s another argument brewing…as the end-of-the-night-tipsy-maths is destined to drive us all to despair.

Having placed an order, your crew then sits nervously waiting for the drink delivery.

After another interminable wait, a disinterested, masked staff member finally wanders over, only to inform you three of the five drinks you ordered are currently unavailable.

And, so you decide to head to another venue, and the process begins all over again…

I honestly never thought I’d miss cash, but in the pub, cash should still be king. After all, you want to ensure your customers are ‘appy, right?

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