What ‘The World’s Most Influential Bar’ Gets Right About Apps

NYC cocktail destinations Dead Rabbit and BlackTail don’t need a mobile app to drive visits. And that’s the point behind their app strategy.

Even if it weren’t sandwiched between respective Subway and Lenwich franchises, Lower Manhattan’s Dead Rabbit Grocery & Grog would still have an air of inviting theatricality.

And that flair with hospitality has won the four-year-old Dead Rabbit scores awards and a local and international following of cocktail aficionados. In fact, ever since the Dead Rabbit’s opening by Ireland natives Sean Muldoon and Jack McGarry in NYC’s Financial District, the two-story bar – along with its early 20th century Cuba-inspired nine-month-old sister establishment, BlackTail – has been consistently packed seven days a week.

While Muldoon’s and McGarry’s bars both maintain a healthy social media presence on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, last month, the Dead Rabbit and BlackTail decided to add two more digital touchpoints by releasing two branded smartphone apps on Apple’s iOS and Google Android.

While mobile tech platforms have sought to use app networks to better attract and connect with bar patrons, few shops tend to create their own branded apps.

Thanks to the popularity and acclaim the Dead Rabbit and BlackTail locations have gained in a relatively short time, they don’t have the problems that most brick-and-mortar businesses are faced with in terms of balancing online and offline engagement. After all, most branded app efforts tend to be the province of mult-location restaurant and retail chains that wield them as a necessary defense against e-commerce and on-demand challengers.

But there are other objectives achieved by using apps to represent single locations, as Rebekkah Dooley, digital marketing director at Dead Rabbit and BlackTail, explained to GeoMarketing. And those reasons are worth paying attention to by the range of retailers, restaurants, bars, and other businesses seeking to sharpen their own omnichannel strategies.

GeoMarketing The stretch of Water Street in Lower Manhattan where the Dead Rabbit is located. (source: the Dead Rabbit)

GeoMarketing: Why did you decide to do not just one branded app, but two separate apps for Dead Rabbit and BlackTail?

Rebekkah Dooley: The decision to do an app, and how it was designed, was inspired after being approached by Ross Porter [co-founder and director] of Podium Apps. He’s from Belfast so there was an instant connection with Sean and Jack, but we did take some persuading.

When the decision was made, it was more as an experiment.

This is kind of unchartered territory – there are chains like Starbucks or TGI Fridays that have apps, and cocktails bars that have cocktail recipe apps. But what we wanted to do, however simple, hasn’t been widely done before.

At The Dead Rabbit, we like to push boundaries, and be forward thinking. Our app is pretty basic, as apps go, but that’s what works for us right now. We like to do stuff that hasn’t been done before, and see how it works.

What are the expectations for how the apps can drive visits?

The idea behind the app is to bring all of our online resources to one platform, and then put that platform in the hand of our guests. The app pulls together our social media, store, YouTube, contact details, menus, events and more. It’s great to have an easily accessible resource that combines everything we want our guests to be able to reach. They don’t need to Google it, or use their laptops – it’s all there. We don’t know that this will necessarily drive visits and right now, the biggest problem we have at Dead Rabbit is that we’re too busy, so that’s OK. This is more about improving the user experience for our guests – those that visit us in real life, and those that simply follow us online.

Inside BlackTail, the Dead Rabbit’s sibling bar, restaurant, and event space. (Source: the Dead Rabbit)

How do you expect the apps to be used by potential patrons?

Again, the main focus is on improving the user experience for our existing audience, rather than necessarily attracting new users.

If we’re able to supply our guests with a more efficient, streamlined resource, why wouldn’t we do that? It’s a small investment.

The way we operate online is a reflection of how we operate in house – the focus is on the guest, and the return will follow. We have noticed an increase in online sales since we launched the app. People prefer shopping with an app, it’s quicker and easier.

How do the apps extend promotions to both venues and to events/projects the bars might be involved in?

We launched the BlackTail app a couple of days before the Dead Rabbit one. Both apps link with both websites.

For example, there is a BlackTail icon in the Dead Rabbit app and vice versa. We have this on the websites and social media too. We have tried to encourage our guests from Dead Rabbit to interact with BlackTail but we’re mindful that they are two completely different offerings and the guests aren’t interchangeable.

BlackTail has only been open for nine months to Dead Rabbit’s four years, so it needs a bit more help than Dead Rabbit. But it already has its own regulars and its own audience – both online and in house.

Dead Rabbit’s App

How are the apps likely to influence other aspects of the Dead Rabbit’s marketing, particularly its social media, search, online mapping information?

This has already started happening in a way that we didn’t anticipate.

The push notifications are one of the most exciting things about the app, and we might need to adjust the website (and therefor, the app) to work better with push notifications.

We’re going to be working push notifications in to our marketing strategies, for when we announce an event, for example.

Some venues offer loyalty schemes like a free coffee when you download their app, but at Dead Rabbit, we don’t do discounts or giveaways.

We need to keep the Dead Rabbit as an assessable premium brand, so we need to be more intelligent about how we direct people to our online resources – we can’t just give something away, the incentive has to be smarter, like exclusive content.

And is the Dead Rabbit using any in-venue Bluetooth or wi-fi to connect with patrons?

We offer free wi-fi at both venues. At The Dead Rabbit, the wi-fi connection process encourages people to “check in” to Facebook, but it’s not essential. We attract a lot of guests from oversees so we are mindful that they won’t have 3G or roaming, so wi-fi is essential.

About The Author
David Kaplan David Kaplan @davidakaplan

A New York City-based journalist for over 20 years, David Kaplan is managing editor of A former editor and reporter at AdExchanger, paidContent, Adweek and MediaPost.