Stop Trying To Get Me To Buy Beer With My Phone
July 31, 2013

Stop Trying To Get Me To Buy Beer With My Phone

Apps make things great. Alcohol (when enjoyed in responsible quantities) and sharing things with one another also makes things great.

So it seems only natural, then, that the three would pair well together.

Unfortunately, the resulting offspring from this menage is generally a dullard. The basic premise of these apps is simple: get bars to sign up with the service, get people to download an app, then persuade them to use it. Like anything in a bar, it’s easy to try something novel at least once. Take Siri, for instance.

Unfortunately, this sub-genre of apps feel like those instances where a seemingly brilliant idea simply never catches on.

Or maybe I’m wrong. I’ve never used these “Buy a Buddy a Beer” apps before, and one of my favorite local haunts participates in a similar program. I’ve never heard of anyone using the app in that bar, either.

One such app called BarEye is trying to expand their presence to bars in bigger cities like New York, LA, Miami and, because every startup has to have SOME sort of presence there, Austin. The startup has also persuaded some angel investors to back them up, yadda yadda yawn. Oh, and if this app couldn’t get anymore “dude-bro,” former NFL player Jonathan Vilma is a co-founder.

Moving right along.

According to other co-founder Andrew Bennet, 10,000 people have downloaded the app since it became available last fall. Of these 10,000 people with the app installed to their phone, the service has only accommodated the purchase of 6,000 drinks. That’s far less than one UH beer (singular) per person.

In an interview with TechCrunch, co-founder and former New Orleans Saints linebacker Vilma carefully addresses this issue, yet also manages to explain precisely why these apps aren’t taking off.

“Like any bar-owner, I’m a little skeptical because I’m used to the traditional way of generating revenue by bringing patrons in. I took a look at my demographic and people coming into my bar and said, ‘You know, I think it makes total sense because I’m looking at the younger generation, the 21-25 year olds, they come in and all they do is play on their smartphones.’”

I’m used to the traditional way of generating revenue by bringing patrons in.

Interesting, isn’t it, that the co-founder of a drinking app (and apparently a bar owner to boot) is skeptical about his own product because it doesn’t bring people into the bars.

It’s this kind of short-sightedness which prevents those Great Idea Apps from truly taking off.

I, too, have noticed on many occasions how many young drinkers are on their phones while they’re sitting at the bar. They’re not really engaging so much as they are Facebooking, tagging one another, checking them in to the same bar, then chatting with everyone else who isn’t actually there.

It’s strange, really.

Just because they’re sharing on their smartphones doesn’t mean they’re searching high and low for a way to share beers with one another with their devices.

In other words, you can’t just assume that the smartphone will bring customers to you; you have to send your customers to their smartphone.

It’s kind of like a bar that way; you can plop a fantastic bar inside a fantastic location, but until you give customers a reason to show up, they’ll pass by every time.

Vilma told TechCrunch they’re looking to spread into franchises right now, allowing them to move into hundreds of similar locations without having to pay all that money for marketing and support. In other words, we want the easy way out.

Sounds like bad times ahead for BarEye, but it’s likely we’ll never know it’s gone.

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