Aston Club becomes the Uber of the hospitality industry

- October 17, 2013 3 MIN READ

Aston Club is set to become the Uber of the hospitality industry, offering a simple, fast and secure Point Of Sale-integrated payment solution with an in-built membership programme for ‘members’ to earn rewards from Australia’s leading brands and hospitality groups.

With just a few taps on their smartphone, the end-user can open and pay their bar tab or restaurant bill while earning exclusive member-only rewards.

The application aims to help hospitality venues increase their bar efficiency and table turnover, improve customer experience, and enhance payment security. While Aston Club is currently in ‘invite-only’ beta mode, it’s rapidly gaining traction from leading hospitality venues across Australia.

How did the idea come about? From their extensive experience in the hospitality industry, Aston Club Co-Founders Nicholas Birrell, Matthew Khoury and Jason Cross knew that one of the biggest challenges the industry is facing today is efficiency. For venues with high table turnover, ‘old school’ manual processes only hinder efficiency, leaving patrons waiting up to 10 minutes to make their payments.

But what makes the application unique is that it integrates a membership program, where patrons are rewarded for spending money at venues.

“A lot of people, when they head to a nice restaurant with their friends or family and plan on spending a lot of money on the meal, want to be rewarded. They want to be noticed by staff members and receive priority service. So what Aston Club does is it systemises loyalty through partnership programs with large brands,” says Khoury, Co-Founder and CMO of Aston Club.

Birrell adds that, “People can get priority seating at tables without overtly displaying a sense of entitlement. The staff member will recognise a customer who comes regularly and spends a lot of money at the venue. They can seamlessly provide them with a VIP-style experience without the need to know them personally.”

Aston Club recently secured $500,000 of funding from a syndicate of Angel investors including big names in the AFL.

This is our second major venture. We bootstrapped the first one, Boogiespot, and that was a huge learning curve for us. This time around, we immediately went out and raised half a million dollars in the seed round – which was easy because of our track record of building Boogiespot into a multimillion-dollar technology company,” says Birrell, Co-Founder and CEO of Aston Club.

Aston Club

Aston Club

At the moment, Aston Club is targeting table-service-style venues and bars, though in the future they aim to become the standard for making payments at all kinds of hospitality venues – whether it’s a high-end restaurant or a local bar.

They plan on implementing micro-marketing strategies similar to Facebook.

“At first, Facebook only allowed people with a Harvard.edu email address to sign up. While we plan on being open to a wide market, we want to offer special promotional credits to people who, for instance, signs up using a Macquarie Group email address,” says Birrell.

“This way we can get higher spenders to go to high-end venues using Aston Club. That creates the brand positioning that you want, and have the right customers visiting the right venues.”

Birrell adds that most of the early adopters have been the high-end crowd, though they’ve been able to sign up over 80 percent of the merchants they’ve presented the product to.

“They’re all interested in increasing efficiency in the business. From that number, we’ll say Aston Club is popular across most market segments that we’ve been approaching,” he says.

They’ve extended their beta period to ensure security measures are stringent and to assess user behaviour and experience before launching officially next year.

Aston Club is free for the end-user, but charges merchants a flat transaction fee. A percentage of every transaction allows venues to gather customer data, market to customers based on that data, and covers all banking interchange fees. This is, of course, in addition to enhancing customer convenience, increasing venue efficiency and offering the end-user rewards for spending. At the moment, however, they haven’t made a final decision on the rate.

Their biggest challenge has been dealing with some of the legacy technologies that merchants have used to run their Point Of Sale for many years.

“The Point Of Sale industry in Australia is not a consolidated market. We’ve had to do a lot of work and a lot of problem-solving so we’re able to integrate our product into venues that have been using older technologies,” says Birrell.

And their proudest achievement, according to Birrell, has been taking an idea that was sketched out on paper and transforming it into a commercial product in less than six months.

Khoury adds that this was made possible because of the “great team” they were able to bring together.

“It’s important for us not to only have a positive influence on people’s lives externally, but also on people working with us every day,” says Khoury.

For more information on Aston Club, visit www.astonclub.com.au.