There’s a tap for that

A suds-centric local company is using food deals to connect beer lovers and bars.

Local Suds, which created a mobile app that  a beer availability database, last month added a service called Shop Local. The new tool lets restaurants target beer-drinkers with discounted food offers.

Local Suds launched last summer.

Local Suds launched last summer.

For example, a bar can use the e-coupon blast to offer a discounted appetizer with the purchase of a full-price pint. State laws do not allow bars and restaurants to advertise drink deals, but promoting food specials is fair game, and the margins on drinks are much higher than on food.

Local Suds offers bars and restaurants two tiers of Shop Local advertising. The first, dubbed the “I.P.A.” reaches 1,000 Richmond-area users for $100. The upper-level, “Imperial Stout” package goes out to 2,000 Local Suds users for a price of $125.

Caliente and Fresca on Addison are two establishments that have offered Shop Local specials.

Local Suds launched last summer amid a local beer explosion. BeSprout Technologies, a Glen Allen-based IT company whose local clients include Refuge for Men salon and Sweet Frog, designed and operates the app.

Local Suds marketing director Andrew LaBonte is betting the app’s 5,000 users will entice restaurants to buy into deals. LaBonte, who joined BeSprout in 2011, came up with the idea for Local Suds while traveling for a previous job in medical sales.

Andrew LaBonte

Andrew LaBonte

“I’d be like ‘Hey, where can I find a local brewery?’” he said. “And they’d say ‘Did you want Miller Lite or Coors Light?’”

LaBonte said the timing was opportune because thirsty Richmonders were – and still are – learning to navigate a booming local beer market. The scene is getting busier with Strangeways Brewery opening in May and more breweries preparing to throw their hops in the mix in the coming months.

In November, Local Suds began offering brewery tours, which LaBonte said have attracted more than 700 participants. The events are heavy on sampling and sightseeing, with the goal of introducing the beer novice to craft brews.

“It’s kind of a movement disguised as a good time,” LaBonte said.

Local Suds works with beer distributors, including locally based Brown Distributing and Loveland Distributing, to keep track of where local beers are available. The app includes both a search function for customers who know exactly which beer they want and a browsing feature for users who have a taste for certain brews but are unfamiliar with specific brands.

For now, the application is limited to Virginia. While LaBonte would like to see Local Suds expand outside of the state, his focus now is getting the word out to grow the company by engaging the local brewing community.

“Local Suds is a ground game,” he said. “I think ultimately [expanding] would be the goal. What we’re trying to do is prove the concept here.”

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