John Lewis and Waitrose are piloting virtual queuing technology in stores to eliminate physical queues and protect customers from coronavirus.

The retailer has partnered with tech firm Qudini for a month-long trial of its virtual queueing system at three John Lewis stores and six Waitrose supermarkets across the UK. 

If there is a physical queue at any of the stores during the trial, customers will be invited to scan a QR code or text a number displayed outside to join a virtual queue or book a fixed time slot for getting into the shop.

The Quidini app will then be used by staff at the stores to track the number of customers inside a shop at any one time and ensure it doesn’t become too busy. 

John Lewis said the technology would give customers “real-time visibility” of the virtual queue so “they can wait in the comfort of their own car or a cafe while also monitoring their position in the line”. 

Customers will also be able to book slots for individual departments inside John Lewis stores, such as footwear or technical services.

Waitrose customer experience director Peter Cross said: “As a nation, we’re famous for our love of queuing, but as the uncertainty around the pandemic continues and the long hot days of summer become a distant memory, we know a long wait outside in the rain to enter your favourite shop isn’t an appealing notion for anyone. 

“Which is why we are thrilled to work with Qudini on this brand new trial, which will let you wait for your turn in line from the comfort of your car, ensuring that everyone can continue to shop safely and seamlessly. It’s a great opportunity for us to test the viability of this type of queueing for the future.”