Here’s the situation: you walk into a bar. It’s packed. You’ve had a rough day and you want a drink.
“Hey, bartender, I’ll have a Whiskey Sour—and make it a double,” you say. But the bartender can’t hear you because she’s too busy.
For situations like these and many more, a new app and service called Preo is here to make life a little bit sweeter by drastically cutting wait time for our food and drink orders. With an inventive app for consumers and a patent-pending printing system for bar and restaurant owners, the Toronto and New York-based company has seen dramatic results for their clients. In some cases, bartenders were able to shake, stir and concoct their way to twice as many drinks served per hour.
Preo’s CEO Richard Liang has been on both sides of the bar, having begun his career as a bartender. Liang saw considerable flaws in the order fulfillment process, even when the establishment boasted a robust POS.
“I started the company while attending business school at Columbia. We talked about innovation in certain industries and decided to work on this to solve inefficiencies in hospitality venues,” Liang says. “We enhance the experience whenever guests are out in high volume venues: night, clubs, bars, concert venues… all the places people go to relax and have a good time. It's a social environment. These venues have a unique set of challenges for both the wait staff and the guests. The biggest problem we saw was in high volume venues; inputting items into their POS system would take almost half of their time, which really increases wait time."
Conquering the client/patron/bar-goer side of the equation was easy, but convincing the owners and wait staff to change the way they worked has always been the challenge.
Liang explains: “At first we created a mobile solution to serve more guests in a shorter amount of time by allowing them to not have to tap on their point of sale in order to input items. The iPhone and Android app allowed guests to put in their credit card info, save it in the app, and use it going forward. Users were very keen on this but it was very difficult to get the wait staff to change their behaviour to adapt to the system. Wait staff are generally positive on the efficiency game but they are critical of how an automated system could disrupt their workflow.”
Although there are already several existing apps that also set out to solve the same problem, Preo's proprietary printer serves as the company’s secret sauce. The printer works with all current POS systems on the market and is used to complement the bar or restaurant’s workflow.
“That’s where we come in,” Liang says. “We have developed a system to integrate into their workflow. How we do that is with our proprietary receipt printer. It allows wait staff to serve guests without having to input anything into the pos and it allows customers to get status updates on their order. Getting a drink when you have a table, when you have a waitress, it’s a long process. We make that much more efficient by allowing the guest to do all the work of the waiter or waitress. It goes right to the bartenders, they make the drink and it will notify the guests automatically.”
Liang and his company of six (along with a team of developers scattered around the world and business development managers in Toronto and Hong Kong) has seen this work in many large venues already, with successful beta tests in New York, Las Vegas and Toronto.
After appearing on a business segment on the Fox network, Liang recently secured a round of investment funding, and will use the capital for marketing and to produce more hardware. 80% of the current hardware manufacturing order is already pre-sold.
“Within the next five to ten years, Preo will not only be valuable for the end consumer but will be widely adaptable to the staff of any sort of industry. That’s how we see our company growing,” Liang says. “We are looking to leverage our tech, and we’re actually seeing new business coming up to us almost every week to improve their efficiencies.”
In addition, another major value add of Preo is providing valuable consumer spending behaviour for the venues. By allowing venues to give highly personalized deals and promotions, it’s easier to get customers back in that venue. That open communication channel to their customers is extremely valuable to venues, alcohol brands, and promotional companies.
Preo will officially launch in time for the holiday season, when the app should help meet the demand for spiked eggnog.