We start off with Bridlington Spa - a council-run Dance Hall, Theatre and Conference Centre in Yorkshire. We spoke to General Manager Mark Lonsdale just a couple of days after they had put on their second weekend in their “Comeback Cabaret” series.

You’ve just had your second event this last weekend, Mark – how did it go?

Really well.

For now, with Social Distancing in place, we’re just doing events in the Royal Hall. The Hall itself has a standing capacity of about 3800 and with tables we can get about 750 people on the floor in a normal scenario. But at the moment we can only get in about 29 round tables and 86 people so numbers are significantly reduced. It’s what we are calling a “socially distanced sellout”.

We’ve brought in events that we’ve called “Comeback Cabaret”. A performer is doing a one hour set, then the audience has a two course meal served at table, followed by a second half.

Comeback Cabaret at Bridlington Spa. Photo by Dan Collins

What have been the main challenges of reopening?

The challenge for most venues is making something financially viable. Obviously, we need to make sure it is COVID Secure and social distancing is a challenge but if the financials don’t stack up then we can’t really even get that in place.

Then after that it’s about figuring out how to sell things in the best way.

Taking it back a little as to why we are doing these events, obviously we are a publicly funded venue so we have a little more flexibility with bringing back live performances. We feel we are in a unique and privileged position. But as a council we are also bound up with a lot of policy and I think it’s been a challenge for us. But having crowdEngage has really streamlined everything we do operationally. Once we get back to some kind of normality we will be rolling the system out on a much grander and larger scale.

Bridlington Spa have been using crowdEngage to send out mobile tickets for each table, along with information about the COVID Secure protocols in place. The large-format QR codes mean that tickets can be scanned at a distance.

How has crowdEngage been able to help?

The realtime ordering feature has really streamlined the process for the customer. It’s allowed us to ensure we don’t have free-flowing movement around the hall so that people remain seated. It would be easy to have waiter service on all the tables but then that becomes a staff intensive cost. What crowdEngage has allowed us to do is staff it in a financially viable way whilst also enhancing the customer experience.

So we are seeing around fifty percent of customers using crowdEngage to place their drinks orders at the moment which is really good. Fifty percent revenue is coming from the app; fifty percent from waiter at table service. It’s really helped to keep staffing costs down for us whilst keeping people safe.

The customer doesn’t have to download or register for anything to order via crowdEngage – they simply click on the link to their mobile tickets and can place their order from there. crowdEngage automatically knows which customer it is and where they are sitting from their booking details, which means that drinks can be ordered quickly and without any additional information.

Was it easy to set up?

What crowdEngage have provided for a General Manager is so easy and simple to use you can just pick it up and roll with it. Setting it up was very simple. As a council we had a few hoops to jump through to get it set up but even then it’s been very easy. Obviously a lot of other venues who would use crowdEngage might be Trusts or privately owned so they wouldn’t have those issues… It’s been really easy.

What’s your favourite crowdEngage feature?

The text messaging service. Particularly with COVID Compliance at the moment, it allows us to reinforce some messaging four hours ahead of the show along with the mobile tickets it generates. And because we are moving more towards scanning of tickets and we are not printing tickets where possible, we are seeing the need for Care of Box Office ahead of a show being reduced as well, which is bringing the added benefit of reducing the cost of ticket stock.

crowdEngage issues a mobile ticket for everyone, even when customers have chosen CoBO. Normally these customers would obviously come to us to collect tickets and we’d print them. But because they are getting the mobile tickets as part of the text service they are not needing to do that. So that’s probably the best feature for me.

Also, crowdEngage have set it up for us so so that when a customer is going through the whole process of booking a ticket online, it flags if we need the customer to give us their mobile number, captures it and saves it in Spektrix.

Spektrix is the ticketing system used at Bridlington Spa and is one of the ticketing systems that crowdEngage supports.

What else do you most like?

The ease of how crowdEngage integrates with Spektrix is just fantastic. Otherwise we would have had issues with one system and trying to bolt on another secondary system. This has been a relief because we’ve had to move very quickly with rolling an ordering system out - and we definitely needed an ordering system! We need it longer term but especially in this COVID climate. Because crowdEngage and Spektrix work together it has been such a smooth and seamless process.

And has there been any feedback from your customers about how they find it?

People are just saying on the night how easy it is to use. You don’t even need an account to use it. You don’t have to download anything. You can just input your card details or use Apple Pay and Google Pay. I think the ease of the process is what customers like. Everyone likes being waited on hand and foot. Not having to get up. It means we can offer that Wetherspoons app ordering experience, but in a classier way!

Anything else you’d like to add about crowdEngage?

All I’d add is that the benefits far outweigh the cost. I definitely recommend venues look at using crowdEngage as part of a long term plan. It just works seamlessly.

crowdEngage are also so willing to adapt and change. We had a conversation last week about some things I suggested and within a day or two they’d been rolled out in the system. They are so adaptable!

Thank you to Mark Lonsdale at Bridlington Spa for taking part in our Welcome Back blog series. If you’re interested in seeing how crowdEngage can support your reopening strategy, do drop us a line.