By Lauren Bens
For the chance to win free cocktails while helping restaurants get back on their food-preparing-feet, just put your drinks on the Airtab tab. Airtab’s CEO, Dennis Cunningham, originally started Airtab to create a social community, but he is now taking it a step further by using his pioneering platform to help the culinary community during these trying times. Dennis is passionate about paying it forward, with a program that runs on the iHeart Radio Network to announce a $25 million cocktail giveaway in an effort to support the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation as part of the #saveourbarsandrestaurants movement. The program partners include RedBull, Maxim Creator Network as well as other local sponsors such as Bahama Boat Works.
Dennis, whose father was in the Coast Guard, moved all around the country as a kid before relocating to Silicon Valley. He then became a promoter at a young age, bringing new visitors into bars and concerts, which is where he realized that entertainment spaces consistently needed foot traffic to stay relevant. After moving to Jupiter, Florida, he started a mortgage lending group which wound up doing $2 billion worth of transactions. This dedicated businessman and entrepreneur has always done things differently, and even began incorporating radio to do live endorsement media. With local celebrity morning DJs promoting the business, they turned saving mortgages into something trendy.
Aiming high is what Dennis does best, which is why he started Airtab, a social networking app that connects trending bars and restaurants with customers and offers them bespoke experiences. By letting the customer create the scene, Airtab makes dining more pleasant for the guest as well as more profitable for the space. “Younger millennials especially know if a particular place has the right vibe or is appropriate for their preferences,” explains Cunningham. “Our platform creates the ability for someone to see who is there – they can say ‘let me invite my friends and make our own vibe’. We’re very particular about the type of restaurants we include on the platform. We prefer craft cocktail bars, farm to table type establishments, unique music, and places that offer an experience. We even have one restaurant that features gourmet bacon tastings served tableside.”
Since Airtab is regional and based upon your exact location, your delicious dining experience might differ depending on where you are. The app, which populates with food and drink experiences near wherever you happen to be, is continuously evolving. The app is also able to collect important data which helps them learn about certain behaviors in a region. Do people in Florida prefer fish or a filet? Airtab is the first platform being used to figure out these types of patterns. By gathering this important data, they are able to help figure out which restaurants should be attracting people with certain interests, such as soft rock, etc. For example, restaurants can get free analytical data by hosting a pop-up mixology event and then keep track of which drink was most popular; they can now use this valuable data to become a better restaurant. This appetizing app is designed to create the Amazon effect by bringing traffic and reaching out to people, showing trends and creating experiences. Getting restaurants on the platform can be the difference between them surviving or not. It also serves as a live media outreach service, as people can download the app and everyone in their network can then see what is happening at the restaurant. Airtab is making sure to hit all eight cylinders and leaving no stone – or succulent steak – unturned.
Another unique feature of this food centric app is that all people and check-ins have to be certified, meaning you have to actually be where you say you are, you can’t just post that you are there, something which is all too common in the virtual world of social media. Users can also capture content and show a timeline of where their friends are, all while providing a secure, enclosed environment. By using modern technology, they are creating a traditional type of community where people meet and interact in person, just like in the old days! This village mindset and mentality allows for people who are attracted to a certain type of restaurant to become a part of a community, regardless of age. “If you want a free cocktail, you have to prove you’re there, and this in turn brings in additional visitors and friends who want to be a part of it,” says Dennis. “This gives people a reason to populate and patronize a restaurant. The app might show you when there is a tasting or maybe a drink special if you show up at a particular time. It’s really a niche platform. It’s about engaging people. After all, people are the entertainment, which can elevate a three-star restaurant to a five-star.”
In order to make the holidays even merrier, Dennis and Airtab launched the $25 Million Dollar Cocktail Giveaway, the largest ever national holiday contest in the history of iHeart Radio. This creative contest supports the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation as part of the #saveourbarsandrestaurants movement to help the hospitality industry stay afloat during these harsh times. Program partners include RedBull beverages where you can gift and receive RedBull and Sugar Free RedBull as well as Maxim Creator Network who reach millions of followers. They even have a slew of celebrity DJs and famous names such as Mario Lopez taking part. “When Covid hit, I started buying up domains with terminology about saving the restaurant industry. They say 35 percent of all restaurants will be out of business,” explains Dennis. “We created a movement that is going to incentivize people with liquor and let them send holiday gifts that are super unique.”
The giveaway, which will reach more than 200 million people between the radio stations within the iHeart Radio network as well as participating restaurants, is the promotion that ‘gives and gives back’. Once they download the AirTab app, 50,000 people will be able to win a cocktail package with 50 drinks in their Drink Locker, part of the virtual storage on the app which is redeemable at any of the participating partner restaurants nationwide. This is definitely the generous giveaway which keeps on giving, as drinks can be shared with friends and family via Facebook messenger, Instagram, email or text. The program runs through February 11th and people can enter by downloading the Airtab app at airtabapp.com
How does it work? Participants are able to redeem their first cocktail the moment they enter a bar or restaurant and then have to wait 45 minutes for the next drink. In the meantime, people are connecting and ordering bites from the menu, culminating in the perfect combination of food and fun while raising funds for the restaurant. Since most people sign up with Facebook, they can message others to join them and continue to connect, creating a unique and savory scene. The manager can also see the names of people who are engaging, giving them a sense of who their customers are and what they’re looking for. By creating partnerships, they are also helping restaurants discover new and emerging brands, such as liquor companies, while also helping those brands with small start-up budgets gain recognition. This giveaway also gives back by helping to revive the restaurant industry – the average person spends around $30 when they go out, meaning half a billion dollars could be raised when 50,000 people go out to redeem their free drinks.
In addition to helping a struggling industry, Dennis is committed to making sure that restaurants become even more successful after the pandemic passes through his app, which connects people with exciting spaces as well as with each other. By introducing restaurants to new brands and creating unique experiences, Dennis is the bold businessman who is bringing the restaurants back. “We are spending a lot of energy on this and there’s no other platform quite like it. We knew restaurants would be a hard-hit community and most restaurants don’t have large buying power, so we offer them value propositions which help keep foot traffic up and keeps them trending in the here and now. People are interacting and inviting friends in the moment to create a vibe.”