Donny Clutterbuck, primary barkeep of Rochester, New York’s Cure Bar says he was sick of wasting time doing ballpark brain calculations behind the bar and assumed that a variety of others were in his boat. The whole point of his new app- to save time. Donny says it’s the only thing we can’t make more of in our lives, so it’s inherently the most valuable.
Please welcome Donny Clutterbuck, founder of the Pour Cost app to Muddle & Stir in conversation with our friend, Christine Dionese.
Christine Dionese for Muddle & Stir: Pour Cost app has been in the works for a while?
Donny Clutterbuck: I happen to have the Rainman-like skill (or disability) of being able to hyper-focus on one task at a time in great detail, so I went ahead and obsessed over this problem for a quarter of a year in every spare moment I had. Pour Cost is the product of that.
Pour Cost had been in the actual planning and design phases (concept included) for about three months prior to its release in late October 2016. But I think it took me almost 15 years on both sides of the bar to develop these problems and their solutions.
M&S: So you developed this app out of your own personal need and because the others available failed to do a certain thing you needed?
DC: Funny you ask! The idea came to me because I ended up being almost fully responsible for my first ever bar program at Cure. I wanted to make an app for myself, as in, just to have on my own phone, because I was tired of converting ML to OZ, then working in dollars and percentages. It was too much math to do on the fly so I ended up ballparking it all and being unsure of my results. I searched for apps to solve my problem, and they were either clunky or too complicated and required information that I don’t find horribly relevant to my needs.
While trying to design and program the app myself (I still have the original concept, and boy is it awful looking), I found it an overwhelming task and decided to get a software engineer on board. With this newfound dive into higher investment and larger scale, I figured I may as well make it available to the public, if for no other reason than to share it and fix the problem on a larger scale. Once I knew it was going to be on display, I hired a designer to make the logo, because I’m no good at that stuff. I drew the logo, and the layout for the final app, but everyone else executed it properly. Hey Porter Studios’ 2D department created the design, and 29 Labs created the software.
M&S: What makes it different and efficient?
DC: This is of course a tough question to answer concisely. I don’t think Pour Cost yet has any direct competition, but if the similar apps were to be considered so related, the differences would be mostly that everything is much more simple/integrated. It’s purposely more inclusive and relevant in the simple app category, and far more simple and quickly usable than the larger systems available. There’s no key-entered information because I entered every value I found usable into a spreadsheet that was then translated into each slider. The way it works now is perfect until someone tells me it isn’t. But then, I’ll fix it with an update and it’ll be perfect again. Currently, it’s perfect for what it is: a streamlined pour cost calculator for people who want to spend less time doing something they already have to do.
M&S: Give us an example of typical use, as in, a bartender comes to work and then what?
DC: I’ll give you three!
1.) You walk into work on a Friday to set up your bar, and before you have time to hang your coat, there’s a liquor/beer/wine rep rolling their case into your space which isn’t yet open for business. You made this appointment, but you forgot to add it to your calendar so you could come in earlier and set up before his/her arrival. You quickly taste some of the products, and you find out what the frontline cost is for each bottle in question. The rep asks you what the possibility of ordering or use is, and you think to yourself, “the bottle costs x in dollars, so let’s divide that by bottle size y in ounces for a per ounce cost. Then let’s multiply that by how much we’ll typically be pouring, then divide that number by the pour cost percentage we typically run with.
Math. Math math math.
What’s worse is that if it doesn’t line up with your typical pour cost, you still might want to carry it, but you’d like to know how much you need to bend in order to make the product accessible to your guests. Everyone has their target charge dollar amount based on clientele, and with the pour cost % slider, you can simply slide up and down the pour cost slider and see what you’d have to charge at each preset percentage value. The end goal is achieved more quickly so that you can move on with your life and be ready for service.
2.) Someone who runs a distillery is in from out of town and wondering if you’d like to use their product. The flavor of the product comes first, but the second question is cost. Without any doubt, the product size, product cost, pour size, and pour cost can be selected to reach an immediate conclusion about whether or not the product is a viable carry.
3.) You’re looking at last month’s pour cost at your bar and you find that it’s running a little high. It could be a fluke, but you’re wary that you’re not charging enough for some products, or that something made it to your high volume menu that isn’t quite as cost effective as you’d assumed. You can use the app to enter your pour cost at a certain charge point into your spreadsheet for each sold item, or you can spot-check a few suspect items and make necessary changes within minutes or seconds.
M&S: Does the app connect with other software?
DC: Pour Cost connects with no other apps or databases, which is what makes it so reliable and quick. Spreadsheets are great for full inventory systems, as no one should be using their phones to do this quickly or well. Entering large amounts of data on a phone is counter-productive, as it’s far more effectively done on a computer. But, if you need a quick fix, a phone is an ideal platform. So— Pour Cost.
M&S: What future application do you anticipate if any? Or, how do you see Pour Cost continuing to develop?
DC: If by that you mean what future uses would this app have, then I’m really not sure. If one buys juices in the same metrics and sells them in the same metrics, then it’s usable for that already although not marketed for it. I hadn’t really thought of that! I have a few ideas for future apps, and I suppose I’d be a fool to list them here! However, I see a lot of problems every day. Rather, I have many questions about a lot of aspects of my daily bartending shifts that could use quick fixes. Things that require math, mostly. Apps are well suited for things like this because even if you forget your wine key, bottle opener, or apron that day, you likely still have your phone in your pocket. The calculator built into our phones doesn’t solve this problem. Everyone I know in the bar industry is absolutely glued to their phones though, so my goal is to make the phone a timesaver as opposed to a burden. Expediency is key.
M&S: Awesome, this means I can use this app in my test kitchen while pouring liquid herbs, let me know when you have time to program my plant-medicines! Donny, What didn’t I ask about that we should definitely know about?
DC: The Android (google store?) version is already in the works and may already be available by the moment this article is published. The goal is to fix every bar person's problems, not just those with iPhones. I happen to have an iPhone, as do most of my cohorts, so I went with that development first.
The next step is to make regional updates for other parts of the world where I see downloads occurring. These other countries don’t use our currency, and some (probably most) measure pours in different metrics and receive products in different common sizes. Don’t get me started on globally standardized measurement systems! If I’m really going to solve this problem for everyone, I need to make sure that anyone in any country is satisfied as well. It’s a global industry issue as far as I’m concerned, so I’d be honored to be the one who’s able to fix it.
We’d gotten (albeit very few, and understandably so) downloads in six countries outside the US in the first week, and that shows that some folks somewhere else are having the same problem. We’ll start developing international updates including regional sizes, currencies, and pours as soon as the US android app is up and running properly. The United States of America isn’t the only country that has to address this issue, so making it a globally accessible fix is my end goal. I’ll start either adding onto this or make a more intense version if and when I think that makes sense.
Basically, I’m thinking: If I’d use an app, I’d like to make it so everyone else in my situation can do the same. That’s my purpose!
I grew up in Buffalo, NY, and barbacked and bartended my way through some of the first 12 years of the new millennium at clubs and dive bars before finding cocktails, attention to quality, and an actual field study in drinks culture around 2013 in Rochester, NY, thanks to a man named Jon Karel. I studied booze methods and history on my own while working at the Revelry until I moved to NYC where my greatest influences were made known to me: Brenna McHugh, and the now extinct East Village bar, Booker & Dax. I moved back to Rochester in early 2015 and began as the primary barkeep at Cure Bar, where I still work. Upon moving to Rochester, I co-founded the United States Bartenders’ Guild chapter of Rochester, NY, which is running with strong membership, support, and participation about two years deep.
I currently focus 92% of my time within Cure, the USBG, and the Pour Cost app, leaving 8% for sleep. I love it all.
Muddle & Stir wishes Donny all the best of luck with Pour Cost and can't wait to see what he does next.
Photos courtesy of Emily Baker
We want to give a big shout out to Christine Dionese for the interview, opportunity, and continued support. Keep and eye out for her, she's amazing!