Ottawa venues dishing deals to draw groups on local startup’s app

Happy hour

Ottawa’s restaurants, bars and clubs have a new tool to drive larger groups to their venues this weekend, thanks to a local startup’s app.

ViiMe lets business owners offer specific deals to groups of friends in hopes of becoming a go-to destination for the evening. A user that brings more friends to the venue will get accordingly better deals, essentially turning customers into recruiters.

Here’s how it works: Say you’re a user on the ViiMe app hoping to grab some food and drinks in the ByWard Market with friends tonight. You see a few venues on the app, such as Patty Boland’s or Red Lion, and check out their deals.

Red Lion might be offering free fries for a group of two with the purchase of a drink, or maybe a free plate of nachos for a group of three. You send two friends an invitation to the nacho deal, and they accept on their app.

The three of you arrive at the venue, flash the coupon code to your server and the grub is on the house.

For business owners, a free dish here and there may be worth it for three customers that wouldn’t have otherwise found their way to the bar that night. For customers, hey, it’s free nachos and a night out with friends.

Co-founder Arian Panah says that’s the idea at the heart of ViiMe: Helping people get out and socialize more without breaking the bank.

He and co-founder Sunny Lo were both involved in student government and societies at the University of Ottawa and saw opportunities in the local nightlife scene when they would organize social events for clubs.

“We realized these business owners were willing to give us a better deal for the event if we brought more people to them,” Panah says.

Businesses can cultivate loyalty, as well, by tracking which profiles are consistently drawing traffic to their bar or restaurant and offering rewards such as birthday treats. Owners also receive data on which deals are most popular, allowing them to push what’s working and tweak what’s not.

ViiMe app screenshotViiMe app screenshot

Panah says these dynamic deal offerings set the app apart from incumbents such as Groupon. He says business owners have complained to him about the small margins Groupon forces them to take on any deals posted to the site.

Business owners on ViiMe pay a flat subscription rate, and it’s free to download for users on iOS now and on Android by the end of the month. Panah says the startup will eventually develop in-app purchases and advertising as supplemental revenue streams.

The app first launched with a few venues and users last summer, but Panah says they stopped promoting it then to rework their solution. Now, the four-person team has more than 20 Ottawa venues on board, including the aforementioned bars, Junxion Public House, Green Room, and Tomo Restaurant. ViiMe has stickers printed that you may see in these local venues, encouraging patrons to try out the app.

ViiMe also just graduated from the Ottawa chapter of Founder Institute, a Silicon Valley accelerator, where it received support from several Ottawa tech mentors; Vicki Iverson, co-founder and chief technology officer of Iversoft Solutions, is on the team’s advisory board.

Panah says Ottawa is the “warm-up location” for ViiMe, and that the app will spread to larger North American cities after seeing the response from the initial local launch.