Phyrefly, a fledgling mobile app set to launch later this summer, plans to do for dining what Hotwire did for hotels by allowing restaurants to offer blind deals to diners during slow traffic times. If there’s anything I love more than food it’s 1) not paying too much for food and 2) not waiting around a crowded restaurant for a table. Thus, Phyrefly already makes me love food even more and it doesn’t even exist yet.
I caught up with co-founder Kaitlin Krogh to find out what’s in store for this award-winning business concept and when we can get our hands on the app.
(1) What is Phyrefly?
Phyrefly helps restaurants to fill empty tables that would have otherwise gone unseated. Diners receive up to 40% off in return for dining exactly when the restaurant needs them there.
Here’s how it works – the restaurant manager can take stock in their empty tables in real time and then create a customized offer to try to drive the traffic exactly when it’s needed. Offers are then posted live to our private Phyrefly dining community. The diner can then search by neighborhood, price point, type of food, and star rating to find exactly what they are in the mood for. Here’s the twist – the diner knows all of the general details about the restaurant but they do not ultimately find out the restaurant’s name and location until they book the offer. We do this for a couple of different reasons. Namely, it helps to protect the restaurant’s hard earned brand identity which, in turn, helps us to recruit higher quality restaurants (places that you aren’t going to find on LivingSocial or Groupon). Secondly, it makes for a really cool, exploratory experience for the diner.
Our goal is to help encourage diners to try new places that they may have passed over otherwise and get a little incentive in order to do so, all while helping restaurants to cover their overhead in a more efficient manner – a win, win for both parties.
(2) How did you come up with the idea? Give us the timeline from idea conception to now…
We were originally inspired by our friend, Dahmon, who is a chef in SouthPark. Last summer we noticed that his restaurant always slowed down around 9pm even though the restaurant stayed open until 11pm.
We realized that it must be awfully expensive for the restaurant to keep their chef, host, bartenders, etc. on staff during those slow hours (not to mention keeping the lights on, heating/cooling, rent, etc.).
After that light bulb went off, we started talking more in-depth with restaurant owners and managers and they confirmed that, yes, nearly all restaurants see spikes for the lunch and dinner time crowds but that it was hard to fill seats during the in-between times. Once we got that confirmation from several owners and managers, we got to work on assembling our team and building the product.
We thought that it would just be a fun weekend project until we got accepted into RevTech Labs/QC FinTech in December. Getting accepted into RevTech showed us that there was genuine merit in the idea and that we may have an actual business on our hands.
(3) When will it launch in Charlotte?
We are rolling out the product to friends and family as we speak with the hopes of making sure that the system is clear of any bugs this week. Assuming no major issues (fingers crossed!), we will be releasing the product to our early access users by the end of next week and the general public by the end of the month/early July.
(4) You’re not originally from Charlotte. Why did you choose to build your business here?
While it’s true that none of our team members are native Charlotteans, we all call Charlotte home. I have personally been here since 2000 and I love everything that Charlotte has to offer, especially in terms of our budding restaurant scene.
There are so many great restaurants in this city and I hope that Phyrefly helps others fall in love with some of them in the same way that I have.
(5) You’ve participated in Pitch Breakfast and QC FinTech (among others) here in Charlotte. What training/mentorship/
In addition to RevTech/QC FinTech and Pitch Breakfast, we also had a wonderful showing at OneSpark in Jacksonville, FL back in April. OneSpark is the world’s largest in-person crowdfunding campaign – think a real life version of Kickstarter.
It was our first time attending the event and it was incredible to see how many people are doing new and interesting things in the fields of technology, art, food, etc. We pitched Phyrefly to over 700 festival attendees and got an overwhelmingly positive response from the crowd. Additionally, we participated in a special program called “SparkTank” which was setup like the tv show, Shark Tank. After hours of grueling interviews, Phyrefly was named Most “Investable” Pitch out of 555 total participating projects and we landed an investment on the spot from one of the participating judges. It was such a thrill!
These events are invaluable to early stage entrepreneurs. They help us spread the word about what we are doing; create a medium for us to engage with our target audience; and provide real-time product feedback.
(6) What has been the hardest thing about launching a business so far?
I think each team member would answer this question differently because we’ve all come across unexpected challenges, but for me, personally, I think it’s been dealing with the uncertainty of it all. Have I lost my mind? Is this going to work? What if the diners hate it? What if the restaurants hate it? What if I hate it? The unknown can make you feel crazy at times! That said, there is something amazing about feeling that fear and still going for it that is the most rewarding part of this journey.
(7) Phyrefly is all about the food scene. What are some of your favorite restaurants in town?
So many! I think that everything that Bruce Moffett touches turns to gold (Good Food on Montford, Stagioni, Barrington’s). Soul, Earl’s Grocery, JJ’s Red Hots, and Lumiere are team favorites as well. We also really believe in what the Piedmont Culinary Guild (PCG) is doing in terms of supporting local chefs and purveyors in the Charlotte food scene. At Phyrefly, we are strongly committed to working with local restaurants only because of the impact that they have on the local economy and food ecosystem.
Anything else we should know?
Head on over to phyrefly.com to sign up!