Cafe Chat: Bella Chambers

NOOK co-creator Bella Chambers.

As hospitality venues scrambled to be on top of their COVID-19 tracing, 23-year-old Albury entrepreneur Bella Chambers was quick to respond, co-creating a new app.

As you may have already discovered, local venues were among the first to sign up to NOOK. Border Café caught up with Bella Chambers to learn more about the technology for the modern times.

Bella, what is NOOK APP and how does it work?

Despite our name being NOOK APP, customers don’t actually need to have an app downloaded. There is nothing fiddly and nothing complicated about using NOOK. That was one of our main focuses when building the platform.

Customers just need to scan one of our customised QR codes with the camera on their phone, and they will be directed to a form where they can enter their required contact info (first name and phone number). This information is then recorded in a centralised database, and can be accessed and exported by management, so that it can be shared with authorities in the event of an outbreak.

What inspired you to create the app?

After working in the hospitality industry for a few years myself, I knew that a manual sign in process would be a systematic nightmare for so many places. Not only would it slow down the process of getting guests in and seated, but what actually happens if there is an outbreak?

Do you have a staff member manually enter all of the information from the past few weeks into a spreadsheet? That would take hours – and time costs money. So we knew there was a better way to move forward. A quicker way, a more professional way, and overall – a safer way to record this information (goodbye communal pen!).

Why is this a good/better system than what might be out there at the moment?

NOOK is a more efficient, accurate and safer way to record customer information compared to the manual paper and pen system.

In response to the Crossroads outbreak in NSW, the NSW Premier announced that large venues (pubs/hotels) will need to have a digital record of patron contact information. Venues now have 24 hours to have this information uploaded to ensure swift action can be taken, in the event of an outbreak.

So the manual entry system just isn’t really going to cut it for lots of places anymore. The time it will cost for an employee to enter this information every night, would be far greater than the monthly cost of implementing NOOK.

What is your background, are you a tech guru?

For the past few years I have run a digital marketing business, Social Laundry – which focuses on helping smaller businesses reach a wider audience online (social media, ad campaigns, blogs, newsletters etc). I still run this with clients in Australia, the UK and Europe. But in terms of being ‘techy,’ that’s not really me!

My co-founder, Jeremy Blaze, is a web developer/product designer/everything techy rolled into one. So when it came to setting up NOOK, I’ve been in charge of marketing and getting businesses on board – and Jeremy has done all the coding and platform building. It’s a really great partnership! 

Do you have plans for the app to be taken up elsewhere?

NOOK is currently being used Australia wide. Whilst we have a strong customer base in the Border communities and the Riverina – we work with lots of venues across the country.

Seeing and hearing the positive impact that NOOK has had on local venues is so special. It makes all the crazy hours that we have been working completely worth it. So whilst we are interested in expanding internationally, we are going to keep focusing on Australia (regional Australia in particular), for the time being.