A few years back, Fresnan Michael Titus was in a packed Southern California bar and just wanted to leave.
He needed to close out his tab and get his credit card back from the bartender.
“The bar got really busy and we wanted to leave and go to the next bar,” he said. “It took me 45 minutes to get my property back from the bar. … It sucks. There’s got to be a better way.”
He told his longtime friend who runs Bixly, a Fresno software development company about the problem. Together they came up with a solution — an app that allows customers to order and pay for drinks without waiting in the mass of people trying to get the bartender’s attention.
It’s an app called Overflow.
Here’s how it works at Goldstein’s:
A customer opens the Overflow app on a phone. When a bar is busy enough to be using the app – Friday and Saturday nights, sometimes Thursdays – a customer can place a drink order without walking up to the bar. They pick the drink they want from the menu (at this craft beer bar, that’s about 45 beers from a menu that’s updated daily).
They pay for it via the app because they’ve already entered their credit card information and pick how much they want to tip. (Overflow will soon let users pay with existing pay-by-phone apps like Apple Pay and Google Pay.)
The bartender gets notified of the order with a “ding” and a box pops up on the screen of the iPad that Overflow uses. The iPad sits right next to the iPad the bartender uses for other credit card transactions.
When she’s ready, she taps the screen to indicate she’s jumping on that order and pours the beer. Fifteen seconds later, the customers gets a notification that his beer is being poured. She sets the beer down under the tap she just poured from.
The customer comes to the bar and shows his phone screen to the bartender. She doublechecks that the person’s name and the drink name match what she just poured and hands the drink over.
When the bar gets really busy, it’s not unusual for a bartender to see a hand holding a phone shoot up above the crowd and hand over the beer.
For the bartender, it’s one less credit card to run and verbal order to take, said Stacey Dwyer, Goldstein’s general manager.
“When we’re super busy it takes a lot of time to take a card and do a transaction,” she said. “A crazy night is still a crazy night, but it’s less hectic because there’s less steps we have to take.”
And that means they can serve more people (and get more tips).
Bars have either already checked IDs at the door to make sure customers are 21 and over. And if it’s all-ages situation, bartenders will check the IDs before handing over the drink.
Overflow isn’t used during the day when things are slower. That’s because many customers want to chitchat with a bartender while they sip their drink, Dwyer noted.
So far, customers appear to be embracing the app. Over 1,500 people have downloaded the app in the three months it has been active. On a recent evening, Goldstein’s handled 60 to 70 orders using Overflow, out of about 500 total transactions.
Bixly, which created the app, is in various stages of talking with other bars interested in using Overflow, said Nick Wortley, CEO of Bixly and Overflow.
“Our hope is to expand to 20 places in Fresno,” he said.
Then, it would ideally expand to Southern and Northern California.
The app is free for customers and bars. Wortley hopes to make money off it by charging distributors and suppliers for advertising in and around the app.