Barpay, a mobile app that lets you bypass the wait at busy venues by ordering drinks and food straight from your phone, is now available in Charlotte.
We all know the scene. It’s a packed Friday night and a sea of eager drinkers, shoulder to shoulder and about eight deep, stands between you and the bartender you’ll still have to fight to flag down once you get up front.
This bottleneck at the bar is a standard hurdle in any popular nightlife venue but Barpay creates a workaround by decentralizing drink ordering and payment processing from the bar and putting it in the hands of customers. The results for participating venues, they say, are increased sales, smoother operations behind the bar, happier drinkers and valuable push notification access to your most loyal customer base.
Users who download the Barpay app can skip the line and order from anywhere in the bar with the tap of a button.
You can even place an order from the sidewalk on your way in and have your drink waiting for you at the bar since the app works within about 200-300 yards of a participating venue.
It works like this:
- Download the app
- Save your credit card info
- Select a venue
- Place an order
- Pick up your drink
Just head to the designated Barpay pickup zone, show the bartender the order number on your screen matches the ticket with your drink and your evening is underway — tip included and with no tab to close at the end of the night. It’s kind of like using the Starbucks app to order in advance. Venues with numbered table service can also choose to deliver straight to your seat.
For locations with lines not only at the bar but also out front just to get in, venues can also opt to sell Barpay Fast Passes that allow a set number of users to skip to the front of the line without waiting. Paying to skip lines might sound a bit foreign in Charlotte but Barpay’s beta launch bar in Los Angeles sold $100,000 in Fast Passes in its first year. The same system can also be used as a ticketing platform for events.
So far about a dozen Charlotte bars, including heavy-hitters like Sycamore Brewing, Ink N Ivy, The Suffolk Punch and Graham Street Pub, have integrated the simple plug-and-play Barpay system into their operation during this week’s soft launch.
“The app is super user friendly and we feel our customers will really enjoy the convenience that it offers,” said Graham Street Pub co-owner Amit Patel. “Every month we have a stack of credit cards that are left and daily calls asking if they left their credit card. By using this app it eliminates the hassle of leaving your card.”
The busy little bar a stone’s throw from BB&T Ballpark and Bank of America Stadium sees big action on game days and Patel hopes Barpay will help improve the flow of traffic.
“It can be difficult to get to the rooftop bar or downstairs bar when there are crowds and this gives our customer a chance to order from their phone and pick up their order in the designated Barpay pickup area,” he said.
Beginning this weekend, Ink N Ivy will be rolling out a satellite bar every Friday and Saturday with a designated bartender to process Barpay orders. If all goes well, they’ll do the same for Panther game days and large-scale events like Charlotte Pride.
“With the launch of this app, we anticipate our high-volume bar and restaurant will now have a faster service option and produce more drink orders,” said Bottle Cap Group marketing director Morgan Conroy.
Here’s the current list of participating Barpay venues in Charlotte:
Charlotte is a homecoming of sorts for the app that got its start on college campuses in Los Angeles in 2016.
Co-founder Dan Wagner grew up in Kannapolis and briefly played for the Charlotte Knights when the new ballpark opened in Uptown in 2014. He and his business partner Joe De Pinto, an L.A. native, met playing baseball in the Chicago White Sox organization.
At the end of their baseball careers, the two hit the ground running on this idea they had to expedite the process of getting drinks in crowded bars and restaurants.
They raised capital in 2015 and contracted Charlotte-based IT firm Levvel for part of the backend work. Local designer Christain Billings did the early user interface design and by 2016 they had a minimum viable product to beta test at 901 Bar and Grill, a legendary University of Southern California dive bar.
Owner Leo Amari saw sales increase a staggering $300,000 from year one to year two after integrating Barpay.
“That’s not all Barpay,” De Pinto clarified, “but what we noticed was because we were freeing up one of these bartenders it actually freed up the rest of the bar and other bartenders to get more [drinks] out too.”
A scrappy RV tour up and down the state of California brought similar success launching at bars near college campuses, but a chance meeting with Mark Cuban at a dive bar in Manhattan Beach led to an email exchange with the billionaire investor that prompted the guys to bring Barpay to Charlotte.
“We had about a weeklong thread back and forth with Mark Cuban at which point he really challenged us with the college scene,” said Wagner. “[Cuban said] I get why you’re doing it. The college demographic is cool. It’s a great place to start, but that’s not going to get me excited.”
They took it as an indirect challenge to tackle an entire city. “We knew Barpay works in one venue that a lot of people would go to repeatedly or consistently.” said Wagner, “What we’ve always needed, what we’ve always wanted is having an area where people could go everywhere.”
Although they see it working at scale in larger metros eventually, getting started on a citywide campaign in a place like Los Angeles or New York didn’t feel like the best fit. Charlotte checked all the boxes.
“We need somewhere where there’s a good density of people, it’s a popular city, it’s growing, people like to drink,” Wagner said. “That’s Charlotte.”
They’re off to a solid start with some big names in Charlotte nightlife on board from day one and success will ride on smooth execution at each venue.
Barpay’s service is free for merchants and users. Interested bar owners can contact firstname.lastname@example.org to inquire about enrolling. Users can download the app here and earn tab credits by referring friends. Follow Barpay on Instagram and Facebook for more.