Technology and Drinking Trends in Paris

Paris Cocktail Talk

This month we’re looking at how technology is changing and shaping drinking trends in Paris including home delivery cocktails, cashless bar experiences and a range of free cocktails each month for 9.99. To discover more about all of this, we talk to the brains behind Nighthawks, Barnaby and Firsty.

Thanks to Sylvain Protais of  Nighthawks for joining us. Nighthawks chooses the best Parisian cocktail bars and delivers cocktails directly to your home or event. Cocktails are bottled minutes before delivery and ready to drink with ice, garnishes, and serving suggestions.

The “particular” (individuals) offer is available upon ordering two cocktails that will be delivered within 30 minutes.

The “événement” (event-based) offer is available at reduced rates for orders of 20 cocktails and more on pre-order.

During this episode, we also interviewed Quentin Thireau for Barnaby. Barnaby offers a curated selection of the best places to have a drink in Paris. Discover, enjoy and don’t ever worry about the bill again using their app which helps you find nearest hot spots and pays the bill automatically using Bar Tab 2.0 technology.

Finding, enjoying, and paying for cocktails in Paris has never been so easy and fun!

Finally, we spoke to Firsty cofounder Harry Knowlman. Firsty is a subscription based cocktail club that gets its members one free drink a day in the best bars and restaurants in Paris.

The app is free to download and becoming a member costs 9.99€ a month. YES that is the price of ONE drink and you can get up to 30 !

Special thanks to Son Little for letting us use his song “The River” for the podcast theme music.

Don’t forget to download our new 52 Martinis app in iTunes, your guide to the best cocktail bars in Paris!

Questions, comments or ideas for future episodes? Leave a comment below or email us!

Forest Collins: Welcome to Paris Cocktail Talk the show brought to you by 52 Martinis. I’m Forest Collins and I’m here to talk to you about cocktailing in the French capital and bring you other small batch, boozy news from Paris and beyond. Today we’re going to talk about technology and how it’s changed or may change the way Parisians consume their cocktails or other alcoholic drinks. We’ll talk to the people behind three different types of businesses that rely on technology or the Internet to bring a different drinking experience to the Parisian consumer. We’ve got guests from nighthawks, Barnaby and Firsty. So let’s get started with our first interview so you can learn more about the future of French drinking. Alright, well I am here and I have Sylvain from nighthawks in the studio. Hi Sylvain and thanks for taking the time to come down. So can you tell the listeners a little bit about who you are and about the nighthawks project?

Sylvain Protais: No, thank you. Thank you very much for having us today. Um, you were one of our first customer. I don’t know if you know that. When we launched it in June 2016, you were like the, maybe not the first but the second customer, so I’m very proud to be here today. The idea of Nighthawks is to be a delivery service for cocktails. So we pick like the best cocktail bar in Paris and we deliver it to your door or to your event in 30 minutes. So from two cocktails.

Forest Collins: Very good. Can you tell us a little bit about what inspired you to start that project?

Sylvain Protais:: Yeah, we are two. Co-Founders, Clara and me and we are very fan of cocktails and fan of good things in general are so things we can eat things you can drink and we have a lot of friends at home like every weekend and we would like to have something- an experience at home and cocktail was the perfect thing. So cocktail is the traveling there is color, there is the taste, there is medicine and for us that was the best thing to have an experience at home. So we have been working on it and we have like very, very, uh, good cocktails and very nice packaging. It’s delivered with ice with garnish and with a cocktail menu and with everything you need to have a great experience at home.

Forest Collins: Great. Can you tell me a little bit about how Parisians or French have been taking to sort of a new technological aspect to, to that kind of experience?

Sylvain Protais:: I think that in Paris right now we have, we are living something very crude with technology. There was a lot of startups are out of thing, but um, cocktails is not as famous in Paris as it is in New York or, or it is in, in London for a number. So for us, the problem is the technology, I think the Parisians use a lot of technology with their phone, with their website, everything, but we have to create a habit with cocktails. And if we had made it with wine, maybe we, it would have been easier. But with cocktail we have to create that habit. But I think Parisians are very technology friendly and it’s not difficult for us to, to make them use our website or your app

Forest Collins: Can you tell me a little bit about. I think maybe you have over the course of time slightly changed your approach. Maybe you’ve added ice, I know, and changed the bars a little bit. Can you tell me a little bit about how over the course of the past, I think maybe two years that you’ve been doing this? Um, how you’ve changed your approach to sort of meet the Parisians expectations or what they are willing or interested in doing?

Sylvain Protais: Okay. At the very beginning we thought maybe the best customer will will have been students or teenager or I don’t know, that kind of people. And at the time we saw it as our best customer were more like 40 year old people, young parents living in the west of Paris where there is not a lot of bars. So there is no problem of money. They can pay 30, 50, 50, 30, 40, 50 euros for cocktails for cocktails in general, but they want it to be perfect. So the packaging has to be very nice. You have to have ice, you have to have a under glass, you have to have everything you need to have great experience. So we are working on it everyday, every month to improve the quality to have something great and a great experience at home. And this is the same thing for the events because right now we are selling more than half of our cocktails on events. Not on only at home, but on events and required a very nice innovation, animation on cocktails on events.

Forest Collins: What do you tell the listeners a little bit about that, for example, the cocktail classes that you’re doing at Carbon I think with Sebastien, can you tell us about that?

Sylvain Protais:: Yeah. We at the very beginning there were only delivery and then we want to create a brand around cocktails. So we make cocktail so very high level cocktail class with a top barman in Paris, the ex barman of the Candelaria and he’s a very nice person and very pedagogue. I don’t know if you can say that in English, but with barman it’s very difficult to find someone who can explain what he’s doing and he’s not doing only very good cocktails but also explain what spirits you have in it what works or to make the flavor together so we make it twice a month in a new very new, which is called carbon in the Marais in Paris. This is a good way for us to show the quality of our products because people can- they leave the class with a cocktail in the bag and this is a good way to us to, to, to show our product to.

Forest Collins: And just so the listeners realize when we talk about this as a cocktail delivery service, these guys are actually working with bars. They’re not just sitting in a room making a lot of cocktails and delivering them. These are cocktails that are coming from specific bars in Paris. So I think that’s a good selling point. Can you talk a little bit about how you select the bars that you work with?

Sylvain Protais:: Yeah, we want to work with the top bars in Paris, so the idea is not to deliver a Mojito at five in the morning. Something that everybody can do. We pick the best bar. You can find them in the 50 best in Paris. There is different ranking like that. We try all of them and we try to find very incredible cocktails, but very incredible guy too that we can tell the story of the bar where he’s workingwho is the bartender. What does he think,, what is his idea of cocktails and so, so the idea is to delivera very great cocktail nota very basic cocktail that you need when you need more alcohol at the end of the day. That’s absolutely not the point.

Forest Collins: Okay, so you’ve got the cocktail delivery service, you’ve got events. Do you have any other ways that you sort of envision in the future that you might be taking technology and applying it to cocktails for Paris?

Sylvain Protais: Right now, as I told you, Parisians are very technology friendly. It’s not the same with companies, as I told you, we make a lot of events right now, so not from two cocktails but from 20 cocktails until 30 cocktails so they are not friendly with technology. They want to talk to you, they want to it to be explained and we want to transform it and transform some on our website. That part of the website in order to make it a full online. So you are a company and you understand very well the cocktail you can have how it works and we want to make them more technology friendly and to order online. The idea is not true to talk to them but to have great experience but to make the technology a good way to sell to the company for events and not only for the Parisian at home.

Forest Collins: And what about moving outside of Paris any plans for nighthawks and Lyon or Marseilles or something like that.

Sylvain Protais:: Yeah, this is definitely something we would like to do. We have three cities in mind. The first one will be Lyon or Bordeaux and then London will be great too. So we are working on it. So yeah, two cities in France and then London we’ll see. But this is in 2018. It will be done. Which one? We must think about that?

Forest Collins: Well, sounds very exciting. I liked drinking in London so if you need any input on good bars there don’t hesitate. You know I like to give advice. And finally do you use the service yourself?

Sylvain Protais: Yeah, we use it but we, we don’t need to use the website because we just have to send notification to the Barman but definitely we use it a lot. We never go to a party without bringing cocktails. So if you want to have cocktails just invite us and you will definitely have cocktails. Technically this is a good way to show that we make what we make and yeah, definitely we use it a lot.

Forest Collins: Great. You’re both invited to my next party. Is there anything else that you think the listeners might, uh, that they should know about your service?

Sylvain Protais: Yeah, I think something is happening right now in Paris with technology and drink and uh, I, I know you, you wouldn’t be interviewing a good friend of us which is Quentin with Barnaby and he’s working in application with the to make the payments 100 percent cashless. That’s very fun. That will be good. I think it’s maybe possible with Nighthawks too, to make things together, but I think something’s happening. About cocktails in Paris independently from the technology sector its very enthusiastic right now in Paris, a lot of bars are opening and then the technology try to go into that and that’s very cool to be part of that.

Forest Collins: Well I think that’s really exciting and it’s been really interesting to watch you grow Nighthawks, so a good job and what you’ve done. I look forward to seeing things in the future and thanks again for coming down.

So I’m now here with Quentin in the studio and it’s Quentin of the application, Barnaby, which I think is something interesting and something I’ve only recently become familiar with. So um, why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself and Barnaby.

Quentin Thireau: Okay. So my name is Quentin Thireau. I’m 26 years old. I’m passionate about all these universe. I studied in Switzerland in a hotel management school and the idea came from the hotel bars. It’s really interesting because we all already keeping the idea and the atmosphere of five star hotel. It’s important for our values and for the selection of our bars. So I launched Barnaby in June 2015 at the beginning, the MVP. So it’s the minimum valuable product were the guide based on the geolocation because we wanted to offer a locals and foreigners. The best addresses to have a drink. Okay. We have focused on a place to have a drink. It means that our partners are mainly coffee shops, tea rooms or hotel for sure cocktail bars, wine bars, rooftops, terrace place to have a cigar and stuff like that. On the APP it’s really easy because you can, you can find the best place according to your expectations.
Thanks to many features like I need to work with a colleague, so we look for an atmosphere, professional atmosphere, and a nice Wifi for example, but for example, if you have to celebrate the nice thing with my girlfriend, again, find a nice cocktail bar with a romantic view and so this first version was only available on IOS and since, during one year we launched the APP and we were really pleased to hear about the community and all the partners, so the bar managers, the hotel owners to understand the way they wanted to be visible. So for example, we have, we decided last summer, 2016 to directly through the APP, better payment solution. That means that we were looking for the most seamless and cashless experience in bars.

Forest Collins: Yeah, I think that that’s a really interesting value added. I don’t know if you know this, but I also have an associated app with my site that is a guide to cocktail bars. Um, but I’ve taken a look at yours and for the listeners out there it is, it’s very robust. There’s a lot of different search filters and it covers more than cocktails and it’s really nicely laid out. I like it a lot, but I am particularly interested in this aspect of being able to pay directly from your phone. I think that that’s really interesting and a really nice new application of technology to a drinking experience. How has that been going over do? Is that, is that part of it been successful? Are people getting, are they grasping onto this idea of being able to walk into a bar, make an order and then pay and leave on their phone without having to wait for the check or pull out their credit card.

Quentin Thireau: Okay. So as you said, we were Looking for the perfect user experience- the seamless one, so we have in our team and Antoine that is our product manager and he’s working with Briny she’s from England and the elbows to find other ways to really find the best experiment that you can have. So for sure, my brief initially one year and a half ago was ‘guys, I want in two clicks as you Berg(?), going from A to B, I want people finding the best place to go without their wallet. And today it’s possible. Thanks to Barnaby. Um, it’s important to mention that the idea of the cashless didn’t come like, oh, we need to be more digital, more and more trendy, more fancy. This is the bar that ask us a new way of payment because they spend too many times too many times to give the bill and wait for the payment.
Some managers cannot accept a bank, a bank payment until 10 euros. And that’s impossible today. We have the technology to, uh, to, to, to find solution and to offer comfort to our community. So the idea of the cashless came from our users, our community, and our community of bars. So it’s interesting to, to mention it. And Moreover, um, people are beginning to use the cashless since March. So we are really happy. Some promos that we did to the partners is to, for example, increase the average ticket and for sure we did it well because for example, it’s depending of, kind of borrowed it because you don’t spend the same money in the coffee shop or in a five star hotel. But for example, in a coffee shop on our business plan at the beginning of this new idea and we plan like a six euros a ticket average and no, it’s small.

I’m between 20 and 25 because people are using Barnaby to find a coffee shops to have a brand for example. So we are really happy about that and our tool is not like a business tool economic and we’re looking to, to, to do a lot of money. Uh, at the beginning. We are passionate. We are from the industry. So we know, the industry, all of us, all the commercial team is from hotel management school, from Lausanne,. Novatel the best one in France because the approach is really important in the selection of our partners is offers, job and eat(?). The first thing way the community gather around Barnaby. So, uh, we want to keep it and we already a said ciao to bars because they don’t answer anymore to our criteria as we have more than 30 criterias and we have a tested all of them. So …

Forest Collins: Can you tell us a little bit about some of your criteria? I mean, we don’t want to know all of your secrets, but is there, can you give the listeners a, just a few of the top criteria that you look for in a bar to work with? With Barnaby?

Quentin Thireau: For sure, and with big pleasure because we are the first one to do this job as a focus on the drink ecosystem, drinking ecosystem since three a to two years . So it’s really important to us to say this, we can give you all our criteria there is no worries if you want them, I can send you, by mail because we are proud of them. And so it’s a separate in three categories. The first one is the place, the venue. It has to be clean. The toilets, for example. Uh, it’s a big point because now a lot of times you have a bad experience in the bathroom, for example, are, uh, the second category is about the service for the product It’s important the service like the we need and we are looking for the Smiley service with a nice team arrange and to make you a, um, a pleasant moment.

And then it’s about the product. So we don’t want to, uh, to promote the bad product, the idea of Barnaby, the essence of Barnaby is to help a small business that are passionate and want to share with you their terroir, to have a, a nice tool that gives them visibility, uh, around, uh, a really good and well known community. Uh, and for example, the product is, is it fresh or we have special question to, to the buyers. For example, for a five star hotel, we can, we can have a really specific question that the five star hotel has to answer and stuff like this, but it’s more confidential. And then it’s the reason why all the commercial team is from the hospitality industry it’s because around coffee for example, you ask a coffee in any place like a hotel or a rooftop or terrace, you can see the service, the product and the place. So we don’t need to spend a three bottle of dom perignon to tell the places and we can do it regularity like account management and to, to, to understand really a,on the field all the partners, uh, expectations and we are quite to the, the only App in Paris doing this stuff as this precision.

Forest Collins: And I think you are now. Are you working with a bar? It’s Barnaby and is it starts with a g? I forget. It’s glass Gloucester(?) last year. So can you tell the listeners a little bit about that?

Quentin Thireau: And it was pleasure. Do you know what a Gloucester is?

Forest Collins: No, I don’t think so.

Quentin Thireau: It’s a yellow bird it’s pretty funny bird. This bar is a hotel bar. So we know that in France hotel bar are special. It’s not really warm and it’s difficult and people don’t really have the reflex for dancing or to go in the hotel to have a drink. Um, and these bar actually was the place where people have a breakfast in the morning or a hotel client or guests sorry and, and they contact us because they were interested to be reference in there and the APP normally we have to test before, so it’s not a, you don’t pay to be on the APP, for example, a business model does not depend on the quantity. So it helped us to select three precisely different venues and the Gloucester I had the idea one week ago before, before meeting them, I said, okay, in France, uh, it’s not english you can hear.

To me it’s not our main value. So we, we, we don’t know how to speak English. And the term of cashless is not in the head and the idea was to have a place that we can explain, uh, the seamless experience to the consumer and to say, okay, this thing, the moment that you enter in the bar, you don’t have to care anything, just having an, a nice moment with your friends, with your wife, you, with your colleagues, with your children, and you just enjoy, enjoy, enjoy, and don’t lose time with the check or to run under the rain to the first two ATM machine and to get cash. So this is the reason of our collaboration with the Gloucester pretty well in France and fortunately we have a law, uh, and we are obliged to propose two different payments methods to the consumer. So they have a to like your traditional the system. But we really encourage them to, to, to, to use the facility of Barnaby a experience.

Forest Collins: Well, I think that sounds very interesting and I haven’t been yet, but I will make a point to get down there and try it. So I can also experience the Barnaby experience. So for the listeners, I’m going to put more information about your application in our show notes and um, and I really appreciate you coming down and taking the time to speak with me.

Quentin Thireau: It’s a pleasure.

Forest Collins: All right, so for my final guest here, I’m here with Harry from the application Firsty. So thanks Harry for taking the time to come down and talk to me. Can you tell the listeners a little bit about you and and Kim and your application?

Harry Knowlman: Yeah, definitely. So Kim and I met about four years ago at Essex business school. We were doing the entrepreneurship masters and we originally created a music APP for couple of years, sound grabber, which was quite a, quite a great adventure. And then we came across a problem an everyday life problem, which is that Parisian life can be very expensive and is sometimes difficult to know where the right places are to go out, get a drink and have a nice time with some friends. And so we decided to work on that problem and we created a few months ago an app called Firsty, which is a drink pass for Parisians. So what does that mean? It means that by becoming a member firstly for only , $9.99 a month, you gain the privilege to claim one free drink every day in 70 of the city’s called is bars and restaurants.

Forest Collins: And I have actually tried the first app and I can see that works very well. And pretty seamlessly. You walk into the bar and they don’t look at you. Well at least the one that I tried, they didn’t look at you weird and wonder what it was that you were pulling out. So, um, so yeah, I think that’s a, I think it’s a pretty cool idea. Can you tell me how it’s been received in, in Paris, just as far as this sort of technological addition t to drinking?

Harry Knowlman: It’s quite new. I mean obviously you’ve received a few guests who are working on that, on that subject, but it’s quite, quite a new subject. It’s a challenge to try and, you know, get venues to understand how much value we can bring to them through, um, technological progress, um, but you know, it’s essential because users just every everyday users are on their phones all day long.
Um, it’s also something we’re trying to work against. We want to use technical, technological progress to get people to go out more, meet real people doing real products, etc. Um, but you know, we have then you’d have to adapt and we’ve tried to make the experience as simple as possible for venues. So obvioUsly the users are going to be doing most of the work by logging into a, the application and subscribing directly on the app and all he has to do, as you said, there’s just a simple screen to the venue and enjoy a free drink.

Forest Collins: Do you have any, um, statistics on what your average user is? Is it, um, more students? Is it just kind of your average drinker is it your beer fanatic? I don’t know. Tell us what your average user is as far as, you know,

Harry Knowlman: it’s some, what we call active ”jeune actif”, “jeune cadre dynamique” as you’re saying in french. So basically it’s young, young professionals, 25 to about 30 years old who enjoy having a drink after work, going out with your friends. Um, we’re, we’re not, um, sort of aiming at huge groups who go out on weekends to celebrate birthdays, etc. We are aiming at people you’d like to go out and discover new places and go out on regular basis. We have a lot of couples on the app as well. And um, and so yeah, that’s it.

Forest Collins: Do you find, is it hard to convince bars to get on board? I would imagine that there’s sort of this, there’s two sides to that. You want bars that are good bars. You want to send people to interesting places. That’s one of the values of the app, but then also you have to convince bars to get on board. How do you go about doing that?

Harry Knowlman: It’s not been our biggest problem to be honest because, um, I think we, we bring real value to their business because we actually bring people in through the door, um, which is, you know, what, what’s important to them. So we working with cocktail bars and beer bars, restaurants, you name it. Um, you know, there’s, there’s, uh, there’s something for everyone on the app. Only good stuff though obviously. Um, and I mean it works out pretty well because we’re bringing business in and we don’t demand, we’re not charging the venues for the service where we’re bringing in.we’re working as a marketing service for them and we’re working with them and um, and so yeah, that’s something that they’re very appreciative of if, if the venue doesn’t want to work with us generally because maybe he won’t yet be familiar with new technical advances in, in mobile apps, etc. And, and there’s something that we’re working on that we all do referencing over 70 venues in paris and hopefully we’ll reference more always selecting where we’rewere very careful on which venues we select. And hopefully we’ll have 100 on here in a couple of months.

Forest Collins: Do you have any criteria for your venues that you can share with the listeners?

Harry Knowlman: Product quality is the first, the general feel of the, of the venue. I mean the place needs to be nice and then the service basically the staff needs to be friendly and we like to work with people who had a strong personality and so the user will have a real experience when he goes into that bar and will remember that experience.

Forest Collins: How do you think Parisians in general sort of take to technology and applying it to their everyday lives? I kind of feel like, you know, in other places in the us for example, people have been doing their shopping online for years and you know, that kind of thing happens less here in Paris and less uh, so do you think, has it been a hard sell to get the french on board with that kind of technology?
Harry Knowlman: Well, we are a bit slow, maybe a bit slow compared to the americans, but we, I think we are getting there. I mean, people are now used to using um, services for, for just about everything. Obviously subscribing to an app that helps you go out is something that’s quite new in France, but it’s a challenge and we’re trying to teach people every day and, and it is a great deal on paper so it’s not too hard to convince people. But um, yeah, I think we’re getting there.

Forest Collins: Have you had any uSers, maybe you don’t have these stats, but have it, have you had any users that have gone out and done everyday in a month? The full 30 drinks?

Harry Knowlman: We haven’t, no, we haven’t. We have, we have some, some hardcore users who will use the app. I don’t know about four if not five times a week, but we’ve never had a sort of complete month of drinking, which I mean we’d probably wouldn’t encourage anyway, although there are non alcoholic drinks in all of our venues, so I mean you can still go out and have fun without drinking alcohol. Um, but yeah, most, most people on average will use it probably twice a week. Once after work once with friends on the weekend or something and so that’s still quite a quite a large saving and quite a lot of discoveries.

Forest Collins: Yeah, absolutely. Have you got any other thoughts or plans to incorporate other know other aspects into Firsty? Other ways that people are mixing technology with drinking or going out or bars?

Harry Knowlman: Well, we’re working on several projects at the moment. We’re bringing a, an event side into the, into the app. We’re also launching some gift cards for Christmas, so we’re launching a one month, three months and one year format, which means that you can give some Parisian nightlife to your friends, family or colleagues who like going out or who want to go out more. And so that’s something that we’ve just launched yesterday. with ?? de la french tech and and yeah, that’s a big project. We also have some events coming up where we’re putting forward other startups from the drink tech and wine tech scene on thursday. We’re celebrating the Beaujolais Nouveau, the nouveau with five other startups. So yeah, we have quite a busy, busy schedule.

Forest Collins: Great. I think that sounds very exciting. So do you use the service yourself?

Harry Knowlman: Yeah, of course. I have an unlimited account so I can, I can use it a lot and that’s pretty, pretty good service to be honest. So yeah, it’s fun. I discover new bars, I used to be the one doing the, doing all the selection and onboarding of venues and recently we had another person working on, on that venue that on, on that side of the, of the project. So I’ve been able to actually be in an anonymous user and go in and try the, try the venues as a, as a normal user, which is really fun.

Forest Collins: Yeah. Well, like I said, I have tried it. I think it’s a, I think it’s a really fun service. I think that it’s a very good deal at 9.99 a month and the potential for 30 drinks, not that you should have all 30 in a month, but you know, you can uh, take advantage of that. so thanks very much for coming down and talking to us about it. And uh, thank you for having me. We’ll put the information about a firsty in our show notes, so if the listeners want to go out and try it, they can,

Harry Knowlman: but by the gift cards for your three months is only 20 euros, so that is actually an even better

Forest Collins: stocking stuffers christmas presents. Perfect. definitely. Yeah. Alright, great. Thanks Harry.

Forest Collins: And with That we’ll bring this month’s episode to an end. Thanks for joining us and as always we’d like to thank son, little for the music world radio paris for production editing assistance. Sylvain, Quentin and harry of nighthawks barnaby and firsty. for taking the time to come down And sPeak with me. We’ll Put additional information about them and their businesses in the show notes and if you’re looking for more paris cocktail, talk in between episodes, head over to our website, 52 martinis, which is www. Fifty two martinis.com. And always please remember to drink responsibly.

About Forest Collins 320 Articles
Cocktail Expert Forest Collins is the creator of 52martinis, an online guide to the best cocktail bars in Paris and other small batch spirits news from France. We've also recently launched an app so you can keep all that bar info in your pocket!