Happy hour by SMS, with BuyYourFriendADrink

Order drinks for your friends, wherever you are.

Caroline McCarthy Former Staff writer, CNET News
Caroline McCarthy, a CNET News staff writer, is a downtown Manhattanite happily addicted to social-media tools and restaurant blogs. Her pre-CNET resume includes interning at an IT security firm and brewing cappuccinos.
Caroline McCarthy
2 min read

How many times have you been IMing with a friend or co-worker across the country, placed a bet ("If that Sanjaya guy gets the boot tonight, you owe me a beer!"), completed said bet, but had no immediate way to fulfill it because the other person involved was miles away? Well, now there's a brand-new solution--but just for New Yorkers, for the time being.

BuyYourFriendADrink.com was launched today and announced on the New York edition of e-mail events service Thrillist. BuyYourFriendADrink, or BYFAD, is a way to purchase libations for your friends online, which they can then redeem at participating establishments with the help of a text message. If you owe a friend a drink, or just want to be nice, head on over to the BYFAD Web site and fill out the form--you'll need to have that friend's cell phone number on hand. You can opt to give them a dollar amount between $5 and $250, and there's a 99-cent processing fee. Then, your friend receives an e-mail and a text message alerting them of the yummy drinkable gift, along with a promotional code.

The recipient then, presumably, can look up BYFAD-participating bars, choose one of them, and head over there. Then, he or she can just show the text message at the bartender, and it's processed through the bar's credit card system. So, basically, it's like a gift certificate by text message--nothing really revolutionary in the technology, but as far as we know, this is the first company to give SMS gift certificates a quick, tech-savvy happy-hour slant. It sounds almost too easy, but then again, mobile commerce is gaining some real speed these days.

I called up BYFAD's CEO, Steven Cohn, to see about the site's future plans. Currently, there are deals with 46 bars in New York City and the surrounding metro area (Hoboken, NJ and Long Island), 38 of which are active. The remaining eight should be added over the next few weeks. As for expansion outside of New York City, Cohn told me that several other northeastern and mid-Atlantic cities--Boston, Philadelphia, and DC--will be rolled out over the next few months. Other cities, including San Francisco, should be added in the second half of 2007.

The big question is--does it work? We'll see! CNET's small but fun-loving NYC outpost will be giving BYFAD a test run this afternoon once it's a more, uh, appropriate hour for beer. If it runs smoothly, I think this shows real promise.

See also: Happy Hour 2.0.