Retail

Apps Simplify Beverage Orders For Bars And Distributors

Provi

Beverage managers are often faced with a dilemma: how to simplify the process of ordering alcohol from multiple distributors. To create an alternate to texts, emails and phone calls, Taylor Katzman created a web app called Provi that connects bars with multiple distributors. After his wife launched a distillery, he realized ordering alcohol was not an easy task: “We learned the whole process of the three tiers of alcohol,” Provi Co-Founder and CEO Taylor Katzman told PYMNTS in an interview.

The tiers look like this: Liquor brands sell alcohol to a distributor, which, in turn, sells the alcohol to a bar. Different beverage brands use different beverage distributors. As a result, a beverage manager could end up ordering from, say, eight to 15 distributors on a weekly basis. It quickly becomes difficult for these managers to keep track of all the products they ordered during a given week.

But, through Provi, bar managers can view a history of the products they previously ordered: They could see that they ordered 1,000 cases of a particular brand of tequila, for example.

The platform benefits distributors, whose sales representatives are on the receiving end of emails and phone calls from bar managers. These reps can get swamped with requests: A sales representative might have 80 to 300 accounts to call. With all of their accounts, reps spend a significant amount of time on administrative tasks. In fact, Katzman said representatives spend 40 percent of their time doing clerical work: They have to manually enter orders, for example.

With Provi, they have time to meet with customers as they receive orders through a text or email that they can simply accept or edit. As a result, the reps can spend time doing what they do best: “They’re the best sales people,” Katzman said. “They should go out and sell.”

The Platform

Provi offers a one-size-fits-all solution: The platform works with a variety of establishments — from a mom-and-pop bar to large restaurant groups. One customer, for example, uses the platform across 14 locations. Either way, bars can benefit from the insights the platform provides. By analyzing data on its platform, Provi is able to make suggestions to beverage managers: For example, the app can recognize when people in a particular area are searching for pale ales, and thus suggest that a bar owner stock up on pale ale in his or her establishment.

Beyond analytics and insights, the platform also seeks to provide mobility for beverage managers. To that end, the platform has a mobile web app, as managers are often on their feet: “A beverage manager isn’t just sitting at their computer every day, so they can utilize their phone to place their orders if they’re in the beer cooler,” Katzman said. He’s noticed that beverage managers are doing just that — using the Provi platform on their phones. In fact, Katzman says 30 percent of his users have utilized the mobile version of his service.

Whether its users utilizing the app via mobile or through the web, the platform doesn’t yet integrate payments. The reason is that payments can be complicated in the alcohol industry and can vary from state to state. In one state, a retailer might have to pay for beer on delivery in cash, while they might be able to get credit terms for spirits, for example. As a whole, payments are largely done by cash and check in the industry.

The Road Ahead

Provi recently announced a $3.5 million round of funding led by Hyde Park Angels, Hyde Park Venture Partners, Ludlow Ventures, Sandalphon Capital and others. (The company previously raised $1.4 million in December 2016, according to Crunchbase.) With the latest round, however, Provi seeks to continue to innovate its product offering and speed up its expansion into new markets.

But, in order to do so, Provi needs to build relationships in each market, as the distributor for a particular liquor brand in Colorado could be different than a distributor in Georgia, for example. Yet the technology itself can be applied to many different markets: It’s allowed in 49 out of 50 states. And that’s the long-term plan for the company.

“Our goal is to bring Provi nationwide,” Katzman said. “We want to bring these efficiencies across the country, to as many retailers as possible.”

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