Updated: Apr 23, 2020
3 weeks ago, we didn't have an online business. We were just a village country pub perfecting the art of conditioning great beer and serving good seasonal dishes for our local community and those visiting. We used all the online services like OpenTable, Booking.com and Tripadvisor, but we never look food orders online nor did we even contemplate having an online shop.
3 weeks later. The UK is now a very different place than it was a few months ago. The pub industry, like many other hospitality business is facing it's biggest challenge. The Easter weekend, the May bank holidays and the Summer months provide seasonal businesses like ours with enough revenue to survive the quieter winter periods. We had to adapt and change the way we do business. Then we thought, what did Amazon do?
The new Amazon?
Amazon started as an online bookshop in 1994, selling a declining product when books and knowledge was spread online. Today, Amazon is one of the largest organisations in the world, serving millions on customers each day. Not forgetting to mention Amazon Web Services (AWS) which provides the bulk of Amazon's profits.
Roll on 2019. Warren and I purchased the Horse & Groom Inn in Upper Oddington. A year later, we closed our doors to physical customers and started trading online and over the phone. In the space of 3 weeks, we built:
Online ordering system for food delivery and collection
Online Groceries Store
Vegetable Box deliveries
In week one, when we were getting established, we received around 25 orders, then in week two, this grew to 35 and now in week three, we have received close to 50 orders with 2 days to go before the week is up.
Not that I am getting ahead of myself, but with this sort of growth, we could be the next Amazon. I've always said the stream at the bottom of our garden rivalled Venice or the Niagara Falls , so my optimism is justified!
A new kind of excitement is emerging in our lives. After a busy day the pub, we go home to chill out, relax and put something trashing on TV.
My watch vibrates during an episode of Silent Witness. I glance over, its another food order for collection tomorrow. Another buzz, and this is for groceries and vegetable for Thursday delivery. The phone then rings for another order.
This level of unknown and unpredictable watch buzzing and iPad pings is addictive. When we don't get a buzz for a few hours, we wonder if the internet is down and we go online to test the system. When we find out its working OK, we are slightly disappointed that no one has ordered in the past 30 minutes, even though its 3am in the morning.
I also have a Credit Card Merchant machine on my desk. Along with doing my other day job where I run a software company, I can now process payments over the phone. This new experience is much like operating a physical till, in which a make a 'Kerrrr-chiiiing' noise after each transaction.
I now know the feeling Jeff Bezos had back in 1994 when his first orders came in, even though they had no Apple Watch or iPad, he must have got his internet buzzes from emails coming in, or printouts on his dot-matrix printer.