Wisconsin Beertech: SpotHopper Adds Marketing Biz to Suck in Bar Data

Xconomy Wisconsin — 

Here’s an interesting case study of how a consumer-app startup is going about attracting users while also picking up customers in the food and beverage industry. Next up in our series on Wisconsin beertech companies: SpotHopper.

The Milwaukee-based startup pitches its mobile app as a sort of Pandora for bar hoppers. Answer a few questions about the vibe you’re looking for in a watering hole and the characteristics of the drink you’re craving, and it will spit out a list of recommended bars and restaurants nearby, and what you should order when you get to your destination.

But to make that kind of app relevant, it requires two things: lots of users and a deep catalog of bars and restaurants (complete with drink menus).

Although it still has a long way to go, SpotHopper is starting to pick up some momentum on both fronts, co-founder Aleks Ivanovic says.

More than 10,000 people have downloaded the app, a number achieved without a significant paid advertising push, Ivanovic says. He says about 2,000 people use the app and SpotHopper’s website on a weekly basis.

To get more data from bars and restaurants—and to drum up some steady revenue—SpotHopper launched a paid marketing service earlier this year that can build websites for the establishments, handle their social media posts, and automatically update their online menus when drinks and dishes are added or deleted.

Nearly 100 restaurants and bars in Milwaukee and New York (the two cities where SpotHopper’s app is available) have signed up for the service, Ivanovic says. The company also intends to target Chicago, Minneapolis, San Diego, Denver, and Madison, WI, he adds.

The problem SpotHopper is trying to solve for local bars and restaurants is that their staff members don’t always have time to keep the website up to date or to post drink and food specials on Facebook or other social media pages. “Bars and restaurants are struggling a lot more than we originally thought with some of the basic technology and marketing challenges,” Ivanovic says. “So, we expanded our offering to help them deal with those issues.”

The marketing service helps fund development of the SpotHopper app and gives the company more robust access to the drink (and now food) data that it needs if it’s going to provide dependable recommendations to users, Ivanovic says. Meanwhile, the number of restaurants and bars who are not paying clients, but are submitting their menus to the app, continues to increase—more than 50 new entries per week, he says.

“I don’t think a challenge was to get people to the app,” Ivanovic says. “I think more of a challenge was how to make sure that we give our users great data. And that means signing up more restaurants and bars, and making sure that more restaurants and bars input the data that our users want.”