There’s nothing like a Jack Johnson concert to jump-start your career as an entrepreneur. Well … there is, but that’s where Adam Theobald and Scott Player came up with the idea for an app that eliminates the need for waiting in line. Beat the Q is a mobile and web-based application for time-poor and chronically impatient café-goers, who can make orders and payments in just 10 seconds through the app and pick up their cappuccinos and croissants when ready.
Instead of cursing under your breath about how long it’s taking to reach the front of the line, why not just Beat the Q?
Launched in June 2011, Beat the Q has allowed 30,000 users to order and pay en-route to their café or take-away joint using an iPhone or Android app, saving time for both the customer and the business.
A Little Bit of Love for Jack Johnson
Theobald and Player came up with the idea for Beat the Q while lining up for food in a long queue at a Jack Johnson gig. It took them 45 minutes to get to reach the front of the queue.
At that very moment, a group of young girls sneakily pushed their way forward and positioned themselves at the front of the line. Theobald and Player were utterly distraught! Theobald decided to confront the girls, and asked them to move back a few spots. They agreed.
When the duo got to the front (again), Theobald ordered 25 chicken burgers and sold them at a premium to those who were waiting behind the girls.
“It was a comical moment. But what I learned was that people hate waiting and are prepared to pay for convenience,” says Theobald.
How do you Beat the Q?
The process is simple. You either go to Google Play or the Apple App Store and download Beat the Q for free. You can also register via www.beattheq.com; and after you receive an account activation email, you can select a café or take-away joint, choose your customised order and click ‘Place Order’ and you’re on your way.
Theobald says the team designed the app so the order comes through to the café, and all the barista has to do is click accept. Once that is done, the payment is complete.
“What we’ve noticed is that customers know how long it will take until their coffees are ready. After a few orders, you can easily cue out the time span, so there won’t be any waiting at all,” he adds.
“And it’s a very quick transaction; we designed the app so the customer can order in 10 to 15 seconds, and get feedback on whether their order has been received very quickly!”
Raising capital internally
After the entrepreneur duo conceived of the idea they went ahead to build the beta version of Beat the Q. They received great feedback and realised the app answered the 10 big questions they had in their proposition. Some include: Is it going to break down queue dynamics? Is it going to speed things up? Can we make it work in a café environment?
When they realised they nailed the product-market fit, they decided it was time to raise funds among family and friends to help get the product into the market as soon as possible. They raised $125,000 in total.
According to a study by Roy Morgan, Australians drink one billion cups of coffee outside the home every year.
“A large percentage of that is take-away and we believe ‘order ahead’ will become a meaningful part of the market over the next three years. At the moment, there are 300 to 400 cafés out of 10,000 doing ‘order ahead’,” says Theobald.
He acknowledges that the app is not suited to everyone in this market, he’s been consistently surprised at how wide the demographic is. Cafés, however, are just their initial market.
“We found that the Australian culture for coffee is quite different to elsewhere in the world. Although there are large brands in the cafe market, more people are drawn towards the independent roaster,” says Theobald.
Early next year, Beat the Q will be entering international markets where consumers mostly purchase coffee and food from large café chains.
They will also be expanding into other sectors of the hospitality industry in due course – like restaurants.
“We’re thrilled to have Huxtaburger from Melbourne on board and we’re seeing a lot of enquiries in that space,” says Theobald.
“From where we sit, we made it deliberately non-coffee-specific and we think that Beat the Q is a solution that not only fits in cafés, but also lunch purchases.”
Beat the Q charges cafés and take-away joints a monthly fee of AUD$33 with an additional service fee to cover credit card transactions.
“The feedback that we get is that the price is very modest compared to the huge advantages the outlets experience when it comes to customer loyalty, attracting new customers, and reducing time at the till,” says Theobald.
Rather than invoicing cafés and take-away joints, Beat the Q simply subtracts the fee from the orders made through the app, and pays out the rest of the amount to the outlet.
Beat the Q is currently being used in well-known cafés like like George Gregan Espresso, Circa Espresso, Pablo & Rusty’s, Campos Coffee, Tobys Estate, Mecca Espresso, Sonoma and Presse Café.
Customers as brand advocates
Theobald says they kept their marketing budget relatively low, and that they’re lucky that customers have done most of the marketing work for them.
“Everyday they refer us to a new café or refer a friend to use the app. It’s fair to say that our customers are our biggest advocates,” he adds.
“It’s such a buzz when a customer comes up to us and says this is the most exciting and useful app they have, and that they rely on it everyday.”
Advice for other startups
Theobald says startup founders should never underestimate the importance of capital.
“The pressure that it puts on everyone as you get closer to reaching your budget is really intense. I think it’s important to keep on top of your funds and ensure the business is well-resourced,” he says.
But more important is working with people you enjoy spending time with.
“Startups is fantastically fun, but when you’re on a tight budget, it’s much more enjoyable and sustainable if you’re working with cool people,” says Theobald.
His last piece of advice is to collaborate with other companies, especially in the technology space.
“We love working with PayPal. They’ve been a great partner of ours, and have really given our brand credibility. You can’t afford to be isolated and too internally focused. I think collaboration is one of the key success factors in any entrepreneurial exercise,” says Theobald.
The Beat the Q team is currently working towards increasing the app’s uptake, nurturing the growth of the business, and expanding the product into other geographies.
For more information, visit www.beattheq.com.