Imagine a website like Groupon or Living Social that concentrates on offering discounts for alcoholic beverages (often combined with discounts on meals) at bars, restaurants and liquor stores in your area.
That's what Dan Miller of Darien did. Now he's the founder and president of BevBucks.com. His new business, which started offering deals in New York City earlier this year, also helps promote products with events at bars and restaurants.
Miller says the business should help alcoholic beverage companies get the word out about their products, especially new ones, help bars and restaurants get new customers in the door and help you get a discount. You may even fall in love with the product.
Run from Miller's home in Darien, the business has just expanded to Fairfield County by holding its first Connecticut event last Wednesday night. The launch party for Batch 19, a "pre-Prohibition style lager" from Coors, was held at Bar Q, located behind the Black Bear Saloon in downtown Stamford.
BevBucks and Bar Q offered two pints of the beer with a barbecue meal at $20 for one person, including a Batch 19 pint glass to take home. For two people, the offer was for $35.
Liquor companies have been holding promotional events at bars and restaurants for decades, and sites like Groupon and Living Social are past masters at providing discounts for all sorts of products and services. Miller says his website makes it easy for people looking for drink or food-and-drink deals to find the discounts what they want, and often get introduced to something new at the same time.
A promotional event combined with an online discount means that the products aren't only offered to people already in a restaurant or bar, Miller said, but to people who find the deal online and then go to the venue, possibly for the first time. Getting new customers in the door is useful for the bar or restaurant owner, who may then sell non-discounted food and drink if people decide to stay.
By concentrating exclusively on alcoholic beverages deals, Miller hopes to maintain relationships with producers, who can bring discounts and promotional material to the restaurants and bars where the events are held. That, and a lighter charge for BevBucks' services than Groupon and other deal companies charge, should please local businesses, Miller says.
Beer, wine and liquor companies spend a lot of money on promotion in a market where there are now thousands of different choices for customers, Miller points out.
"Darien Social can have 15 brews on tap—basically, you're spoiled for choice," he said.
Why would a liquor company want to combine a promotional event with an online discount? Well, for one thing, Miller says, the discount can get people to commit to buying the product.
Restaurants and bars, Miller said, "ultimately want people to come in the door. The whole point is: Why would you discount anything once they're there?"
For restaurants, particularly at the higher end, BevBucks.com is more likely to have a wine tasting combined with food, he said.
From liquid assets to ... liquid assets
Miller grew up in Darien, attending Ox Ridge School and graduating from Darien High School in 1993. He had a career in banking, working for Bankers Trust and later UBS, which brought him back to Fairfield County (he moved back to Darien more than two years ago), but then was let go from his sales trader job at UBS.
Thinking about what he'd do next, he decided to start his own company. He looked into the daily deal craze and thought he might find a niche with deals for alcoholic beverages.
"I've always enjoyed beer; I've always enjoyed wine, and I'm a bourbon and scotch guy," he said, so he was already somewhat familiar with the industry as a customer. (He even shares his name with a brand of beer.) Miller also knew that with the proliferation of brands in recent decades that companies were spending large amounts of money on marketing them.
So far, Miller has a website open for business, four employees and contractors, some local bars and restaurants using his services and some interest from the producers.
Farther in the future
After New York City and now Fairfield County, the business may expand further in the New York metropolitan area, Miller said. Every state's liquor regulations are different, and some will be harder to do business in than others, he said.
If the company expands far afield, it would be in "Texas and California for certain," he said. "They've got very liberal liquor laws."
He's open to working with partners as well, Miller said.
If we can truly show the alcoholic beverage companies that this makes sense," he said, "we could license it out to them."