PROVIDENCE – Two years ago, Miles McQuillen, then a student at Providence College, was waiting for a ride home after a “terrible night out.” The cause, he said, was a disorganized bar scene.
With numerous bars to choose from across the city, finding the right fit can make or break a night: That’s the concept driving Hoppz, a new app seeking to connect customers with nightlife establishments that can provide the night out they envision.
McQuillen, who graduated from Providence College last May, launched the app with a team of three other PC 2020 and 2021 graduates, Nick Calcagno, Matthew Mulligan and Adriana Santos, and co-founder Andrew Matthews, who is a senior at St. Lawrence University in New York.
A variety of factors shape a person’s experience at a bar, McQuillen said, such as what specials the establishment may be offering, how loud or crowded it is, and the age group it attracts.
“I realized from a bar-goer’s perspective, it was such a challenge to figure out where our friends were going,” McQuillen said, as well as “where there are going to be a lot of people, or where there’s going to not be a lot of people, because as a bar-goer, you have different preferences.”
The app, which targets customers ages 21-35, dubs itself “your nightlife concierge.”
Rather than scouring websites and social media pages for what different bars offer, the team wanted to create a central location for real-time factors that might guide a customer’s decisions when planning a night out.
To provide this data, the app has bars and customers create profiles with relevant data. Bar owners can use this profile to provide information such as drink or food specials offered that night, if they’ll be showing sports and whether there is a cover charge.
Meanwhile, customers fill out information such as their name, age, gender and what college they attend, if they are a student. Users can choose to keep this information private, but if they opt not to, the app uses their profile to show live data on who is at the bars.
The app has just under 1,000 users as of Wednesday evening, according to McQuillen, and three Providence bars, Bradley Café, Elmhurst Pub, Old Irish Social Club, have signed up. A fourth, McPhail’s, has almost finalized the process.
The app also creates “skeleton pages” for other bars in the city. These automated profiles pull basic information from bars that have not signed up, such as their address, phone number and hours, and show user data in the establishments.
Hoppz had its official launch on Wednesday, following a soft launch in late August.
With many bars devastated by long closures due to the pandemic, the app felt particularly timely for the industry, McQuillen said.
“Bar owners’ revenues got destroyed during COVID,” McQuillen said, “so I wanted to give them a dedicated platform they can go on to connect with customers in real time.”
When customers rely on individual websites and social media pages for different bars, “we never really see their updates in time,” he added, “and therefore, bars lose that foot traffic.”
Gary Cicillini, co-owner of Bradley Café, said he knew most of the team members from when they were students at Providence College. When they pitched their idea for the app, Cicillini became one of their early supporters.
“To me, it’s definitely one of a kind,” Cicillini said of the app, “specifically for a younger generation. The college kids always want to know what’s the best special, is there a line, is there a cover? A lot of that stuff means a lot to them when they’re deciding what they’re going to do that night.”
With students returning to Providence for the fall semester, Cicillini expects the app will help to build up business.
The app is currently only available through the Apple store, though the team eventually wants to expand it to Android phones and a web app.
The team also has an “ambitious” goal of reaching around 5,000 users by the end of the fall semester, according to McQuillen.
While Hoppz is currently fully focused on Providence, McQuillen eventually hopes to expand to other cities around the U.S.
“But we want to do so in a focused way and not get too ambitious early on,” he said.
Jacquelyn Voghel is a PBN staff writer. You may reach her at Voghel@PBN.com.
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