Alcohol has gone digital. New apps have streamlined the business side, and allow users to pinpoint their favorite drinks.
This includes Hooch. Launched in Los Angeles in January of 2015, the service gives members one free drink per day, at any of the app’s partner bars or restaurants. There is a $9.99 monthly subscription fee.
Hooch also helps members find participating bars in their area. Beyond L.A. the app is also in New York (since November), and will soon launch in Miami and Austin, with five more cities planned by summer.
We recently spoke with co-founders Aleksey Kernes and Lin Dai about their entry into the ever-growing digital alcohol space.
CH: What’s the background of Hooch?
LD: For as long as bars have existed, there have been drink tickets, so that customers could get a free drink. But there had not been a digital way to facilitate that. Until now. When Aleksey came to me with the idea, I instantly got it, and got sucked into helping. I quit my job as CMO at [social video network] Keek to help here 100%.
AK: I’ve been part of the alcohol industry for ten years, dating back to college. I’ve been in front-house management, marketing, corporate events, nightclub management — I’ve been all over. About two years ago I came up with Hooch. Subscription-based services are the future. I know that if you keep customers happy, and show them the value, they’ll stick with you.
CH: How does Hooch work?
AK: There are three-to-five cocktail choices available at each venue. And it doesn’t just tell you what are the given drinks. We have pictures. We list the ingredients. We’re trying to educate consumers.
LD: We’re also collecting user data. That will be part of our next stage in growth. We don’t just want to follow you on the journey, but positively influence you.
AK: If we can know what drinks you like, then we can tell you that there is something that you would like at a place right next to you. And this might be a place that you have walked past many times without ever going in. Or if we can tell you what other drinks you might like based on your preferences, well, that’s the Holy Grail in this industry.
CH: What has been the response to your service?
LD: Our user growth has doubled month-over-month since launch. Most are based on organic growth. And we’ve learned a lot about our users through the data. Everyone would think Friday is the busiest night. But we learned that the peak day for use is actually Wednesday.
Bars and restaurants love us. There is a discovery aspect to our app. There are so many great restaurants and bars in cities like L.A. or New York that most people have never even tried.
CH: What businesses have you hooked up with?
AK: So far it’s been an even split between restaurants and bars. Right now our focus is on places with proper cocktail menus. We have about 60 right now, and are adding four to six per week.
LD: And that’s not just ‘snooty’ places. A lot of apps in our industry focus on just the top 1% or 0.5%. As long as you have good offerings and a comfortable atmosphere, we want to work for you. At lot of places are now reaching out to us about joining.
AK: We have to work with every bartender to make sure they recognize our app. That takes effort on our end.
CH: Who is the target for Hooch?
LD: Our product is targeted at people who want to enjoy a drink, any night of the week. There are 150 million adults in the U.S. who have at least one drink per week at a bar. And we believe that all 150 million could benefit from Hooch. If you have just one drink every thirty days, it justifies the subscription cost.
AK: Our generation is looking for a deal, but not at the cost of a lower-quality product. We fit right into that. We give you the deal without sacrificing the product.
LD: Though it’s important to note that we’re a subscription service that focuses on membership and what people enjoy. We’re not a “deal platform.” We don’t want to be a deal platform.
AK: That’s right. What we do is bring value to you.
Kyle Swartz is associate editor of Cheers Magazine. Reach him at email@example.com