March 26th, 2014 by Crafty Pint
It began as a student teacher’s hunt for cheap jugs of beer in Melbourne, graduated to a simple online spreadsheet, slowly spread its tentacles across Australia, now also comes as an app with 75,000 and countng downloads and has its owners batting away interested buyers. As it prepares to celebrate ten years, it’s fair to say The Happiest Hour, a pub goer’s guide to finding drink and food deals that attracts more than one million visits a year, has come a long way.
“10 years ago, we were going around drinking Tooheys jugs for five dollars at the time when they were trying to buy into Melbourne pubs,” says site founder Chris Canty (pictured above). “Then the pub stopped doing it and we didn’t know where to go.”
So they started doing a little research to find out which venues were running offers, created a FrontPage website for free and used it to post a spreadsheet of offers that started to get a following. Soon the site was upgraded, they started adding more content, created the Happiest Hour Awards, and growth continued. Chris even managed to find ways to get students at Melbourne University involved in the project while teaching there.
And, all the while, as it has grown it has been done for love – even maintained while Chris was living and working overseas as a travel writer. Two years ago, the latest step in its growth so him sell half the business to a mate, Karl Kopp, the CEO of an IT company who created the free Happiest Hour app.
“It didn’t make any money for the first nine and a half years,” says Chris. “We are still wondering what to do commercially but we have over a million hits per year now.
“We’ve been approached six times in the past year by people who see what it could be. We believe we’ve got the right technology and want to build our own army.”
For anyone unfamiliar with the site, as well as listing food and drink offers (with the former now more popular with users of the site than the latter) they operate a star system that rates the offers, one means of highlighting those featuring better beer. And while they update and approve submitted offers from venues, much of it is user moderated: if a happy hour isn’t running, members of the public click a button and Chris and Karl are notified.
“We started off with Toohey’s Red then moved to Toohey’s Old then onto other beers and got into craft beer from 2007,” says Chris, who also writes about pubs and beer for Fairfax publications in Victoria and Tiger Airways magazine.
“We rate pubs higher if they have craft beer. For example, Dejavu Bar with its $6 pints of craft beer on Wednesday gets five stars, while if an offer features Coopers, for example, they might get four stars.”
Now, to mark the momentous occasion of having turned ten, they are hosting a party at the Tote called The Happiest Decade. They have lined up five of their favourite local bands, an all-you-can-eat barbecue and crafty prizes from the likes of Feral, Thunder Road, Birra Italiana and Lost Coast. It takes place on the afternoon of April 6, exactly ten years to the day since the project began.
With the app going gangbusters and Chris and Karl on a mission to develop the business side of The Happiest Hour in its second decade, it might feel like a well devised plan. Not so, says Chris.
“We made this for ourselves,” he says. “Just because we were tight arses.”
The Happiest Decade kicks off at midday. Entry costs $20.