18th Apr 2018

Will we interact with anyone in the future? Are Pubs the next scalp for the card only self-service checkout?

Account Director Ben Holden discusses:

I’ve many passions in life; Snowboarding, The Alps, Pubs, Retail Innovation and Beer. It’s just so wonderful when they all combine in one place and combine they did on my recent trip to Chamonix.

It was during my annual snowboarding break from responsibility to France where I get to pretend I’m a 22 year old snowboarding God engaging in the coolest extreme sport in the world.

In reality, I’m an ageing 42-year-old snowboarding baffoon who should know better, doing a dad sport that is so 1997.

After a long day snowboarding I sort out a place to nurse a few bruises (and my pride) and I wasn’t disappointed when I came across Beer O’Clock.

From the outside, it looks like a cool bar that wouldn’t be out of place in Shoreditch but when you walk through the door it’s much more than this.

As I looked into the bar through the glass on the right-hand side I saw a wall with screens, self-service beer pumps with what looks like contactless payment – my eyes lit up!

Because we’ve worked on many card only self-service projects (with Tesco, Asda and Boots) I had to sacrifice part of my weekend away and do some research in the interest of Quantum and the wider retail community. I know I can hear you all saying “you hero Holden”.

I ventured in.

Table and Chairs

Surprisingly it wasn’t a cold, stark transaction environment. It had trendy tall refectory tables with alternative soft seating options.

At the back of the bar, there was a small service hatch where you collected your glass from a very friendly operative (not sure if you can call them a bartender, as there was no bar).

Now to be fair it wasn’t just a case of getting out your contactless Visa or MasterCard to use on the terminals, you had to purchase a prepaid payment card from your friendly operative.

But from this point, it was certainly Beer O’Clock. Offering a choice of over 20 beers from around the world, you placed your prepaid card in the marked area and poured yourself a taste of beer.

Then a whole pint or if you’re completely nuts you could mix-and-match in the same glass (not a good idea). The screen shows volume delivered in centilitres and the amount you’ve spent – very handy.

With all this choice and well received tasting opportunities in some ways it felt more like a mini futuristic beer festival than a pub.

The Screens are not just transactional they give you details behind the style of the beer and tasting notes (in French and English).

Contactless Payment

With this style of purchasing in a bar, there are some obvious key questions about how it’s managed from a social responsibility view.

I assume this is why the concept is not completely contactless and you have to purchase a prepaid card so staff can have the opportunity to intervene when necessary. As with all pubs and bars, there are staff clearing tables.

With my Quantum4 retail design head on I completely immersed myself in this new innovation researching many times the self-service concept.

However, in the minus 10c reality of the sobering Mont Blanc air, there is a part of me thinks is the pub the last sacred bastion of human interaction, and one of the pleasures in life is a friendly conversation with the bartender.

Then again life is all about choice. When shopping at the supermarket I have the choice of self-service checkout or purchasing my goods from a friendly cashier but I usually go for the self-service option.

I’m still in love with this cool innovation and there is definitely a place for it.  I will be going back and do some more research next season.


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