Have you ever had one of those special ideas that you thought might turn into a really good business idea? Unfortunately, I have to admit that this flash of inspiration has not yet hit me. But sometimes the path from having a funny idea with friends to starting a business of your own is not so long after all. The best examples are Simone, Patrick, Ella, and Fabian. They are the four founding members of the Göttingen pub app BarBQ. And that is exactly what I want to talk to you about in this article which belongs to our series “Göttingen Start-Up Stories”. I met with Simone and Patrick to learn more about the app, which is supposed to help you keep track of the wide range of pubs, bars, cafés and restaurants in Göttingen. By the way, in 2019 BarBQ even won first place in the category “Gründungspotenziale” of the start-up competition “Lift-Off” of the University of Göttingen – keep on reading for more details!
The right pub with BarBQ
“BarBQ is actually just a pun based on a bad joke of mine,” explains Patrick. “It actually stands for Bar Rating Quotient and, before the question comes up, has nothing to do with barbecuing!”. This becomes clear very quickly when you take a look at the app. In fact, you can already find 134 bars, cafés, and restaurants from Göttingen which can be filtered by various criterion. For example, are you looking for a smoke-free place where you can have breakfast with your first date? No problem – all these and many more filters can be set in the app which then provides you a selection of locations that match your wishes. By the way, there are also some photos and helpful information about each bar: For example, the “beer index” shows how to estimate the price level, the flirt factor describes how easy it is to get in contact with other people. There are also “beer routes” – so if you still need inspiration for a private pub crawl, BarBQ provides that for you. “All this information we’ve collected ourselves,” says Simone. “But the users don’t have to rely on our editorial evaluation alone. Each user can also give their own rating, because then you can see in the app which rating comes from us and what other guests say about the bar!”.
SimPaFe UG – the business behind BarBQ
The idea for the BarBQ app came to the four friends who were all working at the Institute for Computer Science at the University of Göttingen at the time, when they were standing in front of their closed favorite bar. “Of course we had to look for an alternative and then thought it would be cool to have something like an overview about all the bars in Göttingen,” says Patrick. A little later, the idea became reality and the “SimPaFe UG” was founded. “That is our company name, which is made up of our first names,” reveals Simone. “BarBQ is the name of our product, so to speak”. Although BarBQ is a really good and helpful idea, the four founders do not earn money with the app: “It really is a project that we don’t earn money with and that consumes a lot of our free time”, says Patrick. “We do it simply because we enjoy it and think that other people could use it.
“The app can be valuable for bars, restaurants, and cafés”
A model of how the app could be self-sustaining already exists: “We want to get the bars, cafés, and restaurants to pay a small amount of money so that their data is always up-to-date,” explains Patrick. “For example, you can either maintain your data yourself, which would be a bit cheaper, or you can entrust us with the updating, which would cost a bit more”. At the end of the day, they both assure that they don’t want to take money out of anyone’s pocket. “It would be just nice if we were accepted in the pub scene in such a way that the owners are willing to pay a small amount. The app offers real added value,” says Patrick. “It’s cheaper than placing an ad in a magazine or something similar”, Simone adds. Shortly before the Corona pandemic began, the payment model was actually already in a test phase – but was then paused due to the many closures of restaurants and bars and is now to be slowly resumed.
“About 1800 people already use our app,” says Simone. “After about half a year on the market we had about 1000 users, then Corona came. But even then, we were able to develop well. Although the restaurants were closed, about 800 people downloaded the app”. The BarBQ team also came up with a special idea to support the catering businesses: When everything was closed, they made a list of where food could be picked up, who organized which charity events, and so on. “People really liked that idea,” says Simone. “By the way, we also integrated the ‘delivery service’ filter permanently into our app because many companies set it up just like that at the time of the lockdown”. This November, we are again living in a partial lockdown – the cultural and gastronomic sectors are especially affected. To support local gastronomy scene, you can find the “Covid-19 offers” in the BarBQ App. Where you can get your favorite food, cake, coffee or even cocktails “to go” can be fount out easily here!
Need help? The start-up consultancy of the University of Göttingen is there for you!
The fact that the app is now running so well is mainly thanks to the commitment of the four founders. “Back then, we just did what we could and awaited what came out of it,” reveals Simone. “But we also got support at some point – namely from the University of Göttingen’s start-up consultancy. They helped us making contacts and we regularly took part in start-up meetings. They also had many helpful tips”. BarBQ was not able to take advantage of a special support program, “but we were told that we could take part in the 2019 Lift-Off competition,” says Simone. “That gave us a great boost,” explains Patrick. “During the competition, we got helpful coachings, a pitch training on how to present our idea in the best possible way, and of course, we could really use the prize money from our first place in the category ‘Start-up Potential’. Possibly the best thing was, according to Simone, that you are forced to rethink and revise your business idea over and over in a rather intense manner during the competition. “It was definitely a great help to participate,” she says, “and I would really recommend it to everyone!”.
Plans for the future
Setting up your own company is not always easy though: “The worst thing really was the fear”, says Simone. “There is so much that you simply don’t know, accounting for example, and so many new terms. But if you don’t give up, at some point everything will work. If you make mistakes, usually that is not a big deal. The tolerance for errors is quite high”. Right now, everything is running smoothly at BarBQ. Therefore, plans for the future are already being made: “As I said, we hope that the app will soon be self-sustaining”, says Simone. For this to work, it’s not only the bar owners who are in demand: You can also support BarBQ by downloading the pro version for a one-time fee of 50 cents. “But that’s not a must”, says Simone, “the most important functions can all be used free of charge!”. For the future, the team has some more ideas: A check-in function for the pubs listed in the app, for example, which could simplify corona contact tracking. “But the idea is still completely new, we have to see how that is possible in terms of personal data protection”, says Patrick. “BarBQ itself does not collect personal data, and we want to keep it that way”. Another consideration is that of BarBQ Active – a new platform where leisure activities could be listed and rated.
Hidden treasures of the Göttingen gastronomy scene
It definitely sounds like a good idea! How often do you sit at home on the weekend and don’t really know what activities there are to do? But as long as BarBQ Active is not yet available, you can use the BarBQ app to your advantage: Depending on whether you want to have a cosy or a sociable time, or if you feel like having a coffee or party with your friends, BarBQ has some pretty good suggestions and reviews already. The app always has some very good suggestions ready. Unfortunately, the app is currently only available in German – but maybe it can be a good incentive to practice your language skills! By the way, the café where I met Simone and Patrick was also a suggestion from the app: A cozy café with oriental furniture, which I never noticed before, but which is definitely worth a visit! I’m curious to see which other hidden treasures of the Göttingen gastronomy scene I will discover with BarBQ…