Pittsburgh Startup: Grail Takes Alcohol Discovery Table Side, Interview

Last week we brought you an interview with New York Alcohol Discovery startup Drynk.me. They provide an app that makes it easy to discovery new alcoholic beverages, snap pictures, jot down ingredients, and share with friends. This week we have an interview with Pittsburgh startup RhoMania who have just released a new app called “Grail” to restauranteurs to help restaurant patrons with their alcoholic beverage selection.

Grail is available in an iPad and web app version which allows restauranteurs to have servers bring an interactive alcohol menu which highlights the selection on site at that restaurant and pairs beverages with the food on the menu. Grail serves as an interactive wine and cocktail list which can be much more robust than traditional two sheet lists.

Where Drynk.me is a consumer facing app, Grail is designed to be utilized by restaurants. The hope is that the app will help increase liquor and beverage sales.

We got a chance to talk with the team behind RhoMania and the Grail app. Check out the interview below

What is your startup, what does it do?

RhoMania is the Pittsburgh-based tech startup that developed Grail, the Web app being used nationally by restaurant owners who want to demystify the process of choosing, buying, and experiencing alcoholic beverages. RhoMania provides diners and guests with accessible, trustworthy, and convenient information.

Who are the founders and what are their backgrounds

Prior to founding RhoMania, Darren Olson was involved with BBSes, the precursor to the internet, in the early ’90s. He ran his own BBS, Total Eclipse Enterprises, as System Operator, or SysOp. People would call his modem and trade shareware files, post to message boards and e-chat. He started it when he was 12 years old. Darren is currently completing his MBA at Carnegie Mellon University here in Pittsburgh, PA.

Where are you based?

Pittsburgh, PA

What is the startup culture like where you are based?

Pittsburgh has a phenomenal startup culture, fueled in part by the many CMU spin-offs, the various venture capital firms in the city, and the many accelerator programs.  Maybe this is why it has been nicknamed the Steelicon Valley.

What problem does your startup solve?

Not since the development and implementation of POS systems has restaurant technology been so revolutionized. Grail™ was designed and developed by RhoMania and is accessed on an iPad which is then placed on restaurant tables and bar counters. The digital menu helps restaurant owners increase their LBW revenues by upward of 20%. Grail does this by providing their customers with the information they need to make informed decisions on alcoholic beverage purchases in a particular restaurant. Grail is also available as a Web app on smart phones.

What is one challenge that you’ve overcome in the startup process?

Getting the word out, getting our story told so that more potential clients get familiar with our name and grow more comfortable with our service offering.

Who are your mentors and role models?

Personally, it has been my wife Meghan. We have a lot going on, with jobs, school, kids and everything else life brings, but we make it work!

For our company, our customers are our biggest cheerleaders. They know that we’re a startup and many times understand the trials and tribulations associated, and they’ve been cheering us along the whole way. That’s what makes our work gratifying.

Whats one thing the world doesn’t know about you or your startup?

Answer to follow

What’s next for your startup?

RhoMania has big plans for expansion into the nation’s largest restaurant markets: New York, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Chicago, Seattle, Philadelphia, Boston, and Miami. In less than a year, the tech startup has added restaurant clients in Pittsburgh, PA, Denver, CO, and Fort Wayne, IN, attesting to the company’s innovative “likeability” and ease-of-use of Grail. A recent write-up in Las Vegas Food & Beverage Professional magazine has bolstered publicity for the startup and several tech reporters have indicated an interest in writing about the Grail offering and how it makes diners’ lives easier.


Check out Grail here at the RhoMania website

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