Bakery chain Greggs PLC (LON:GRG) found itself rolling downhill on Friday as its abandoned plans for a limited reopening of some of its stores in the coming month due to concerns that large crowds gathering to get their hands on steak bakes and vegan sausage rolls would make it difficult to enforce social distancing measures.
A debate is currently underway in multiple countries around how shops and leisure venues can begin to reopen while also maintaining effective distancing measures to limit the risk of a fresh wave of coronavirus infections.
One potential avenue being explored to balance the competing demands of the economy and public health is the use of virtual (or remote) queuing technology.
The technology allows consumers to wait their turn for a service, usually a theme park ride, without needing to stand in line for extended periods.
For the leisure industry, in particular, the use of virtual queuing also allows visitors to buy other products and services while waiting as they are no longer required to stand in a physical line.
However, in the current pandemic environment, these systems may become essential if theme parks and similar venues want to survive while also protecting their guests.
Earlier this week, US theme park group Six Flags unveiled plans to reopen some of its locations with a string of new health and safety measures including face masks, temperature checks, reduced attendance, virtual queueing, mobile ordering, cashless transactions, social distancing and constant sanitisation.
While theme parks may be the prime users of this technology, having incorporated it even before the outbreak, other areas of the economy are also starting to see the benefits as they are forced to implement their own social distancing measures in they want to keep customers buying their products.
In its results on Thursday, FTSE 100 supermarket J Sainsbury PLC (LON:SBRY) said that while it expected lockdown restrictions to ease by June, restrictions and queues to enter its outlets could remain in place until mid-September.
accesso CEO spies opportunity from the new normal
The advent of social distancing and the new interest in virtual queuing systems across the economy bodes well for companies such as accesso Technology Group PLC (LON:ACSO), an AIM-listed firm that provides virtual queuing and ticketing products.
Speaking to Proactive, company chief executive Steve Brown said the theme park sector, which encompasses most of its current clients, will begin to reopen over the summer and is likely to see high levels of interest an outlet for people emerging from weeks of lockdown.
With social distancing to remain for an extended period, Brown says that technology such as accesso’s, which allows people to queue for theme park rides remotely, can be leveraged by its clients to keep their queue lines separate and even do away with them altogether.
Highlighting the growing interest in socially distant queuing, Brown also said that the company has received enquiries from “a range of different businesses” regarding its technology.
“There’s definitely an opportunity for our technology to be used to facilitate social distancing across any location where there are many people that need to enter a particular venue, be it a supermarket, a drug store or a theme park”, he said.
While some firms may be struggling to implement similar types of systems in response to the pandemic restrictions, Brown said the company is ready and waiting to provide its own products.
“We’ve been doing this a long time … in fact, we invented virtual queuing…We have a lot of expertise and our systems are standing by ready to go – we’re not creating something new in the garage – we’ve been doing this a very long time”. Last year we served over 38mln consumers with our virtual queuing system … so we’re ready to go”, he said.
“This [situation] is challenging for everyone…but on the other side I think we will find ourselves in a good position”, Brown concluded.