James Sun brings new app to big appetites

By James Tabafunda
Northwest Asian Weekly

James Sun

Eating out at a discount has become even easier, thanks to cell phone technology.

A free premium offer service called Pirq will launch in the Seattle area in mid-July, according to a June 7 announcement.

It will give consumers discounts ranging from 20 to 50 percent off at such restaurants as 13 Coins, Cupcake Royale, Sip at the Wine Bar Restaurant, Red Mango, and Desert Fire.

“We decided for strategic reasons to make sure the app is perfect and also, that we hit it from the right angle. To do all of that, we’re launching in mid-July,” said Pirq CEO James Sun.

He hopes more first-generation Asian American restaurant owners will use Pirq to attract smartphone users to their businesses.

“They are primarily professional, working-class people who have disposable income to spend. It gives an opportunity for us to tap that group and show them Asian culture and Asian foods that they may have never known about,” said Sun, a finalist on NBC’s hit reality TV show “The Apprentice: Los Angeles” in 2007.

Focused on providing real-time restaurant deals, Pirq will be made available first to iPhone and Android users.

Sun says the idea for the service began four years ago when he wanted to help consumers find places and people easily.

He said, “Consumers should be able to get access to deals and offers when they want and when they need it.” Pirq enables them to use their cell phone to “find a quality offer nearby.”

For restaurant owners, Pirq is the first “yield-management solution” that prevents a flood of bargain-minded, Groupon-like consumers from showing up at a restaurant during peak business hours. It gives restaurant owners the flexibility to instantly offer steep discounts when there are few or even no customers.

Other industries have successfully used this solution. Sun pointed out, “The airline industry has done this for over 15 years. The hotel industry has done this, but restaurants have never been able to do it.”

Pirq uses a unique Microsoft Tag inside each restaurant to authenticate the deals. When a consumer uses Pirq and enters one of over 100 participating restaurants, Sun said, “We get paid on commission. So when we send somebody in and they spend money, the vendor pays us.”

“People constantly ask themselves, ‘Where do we want to eat?’ when they’re on-the-go,” said Steve Price, president and partner of Arnie’s Restaurants Northwest, who signed up for all four of his restaurants. “The Pirq app will help customers see what’s available at that moment and decide on the spot, which brings us business. The ability to offer deals when we want to fill tables — in real time — is exactly what restaurants need, especially in this economy.”

On the issue of restaurant owners raising menu prices to make up for the increase in sales of discounted menu items, Sun says they don’t need to. “With every deal that they do on our site and (consumers grab) on their smartphones, they (restaurant owners) make money. They’re profitable on every level,” he pointed out.

Pirq does not function like a daily deal website, like online coupon giant Groupon, which offers discounts ranging from 50 to 90 percent off full price to its 70 million subscribers each day.

It is a complimentary deal service that does not require up-front payment by credit card, a 24-hour waiting period to redeem, or pre-purchased coupons that may never get used.

Coupang is the largest daily deal site in South Korea, with three million members, $10 million in revenue, and 700,000 visitors per day. It posts more than 30 deals on its website each day.

“There are, at least, well over 1,000 daily deal sites. And what’s interesting about that is that’s the whole reason that we created Pirq,” Sun said. “We created Pirq to be the antidote to the maze and craze of daily deals.”

Pirq will expand to more locations including San Francisco, Los Angeles, Orange County, Chicago, New York, Boston, and Washington, D.C. in the next 12 to 18 months. ♦

For more information about Pirq, visit pirq.com/how_it_works.

James Tabafunda can be reached at info@nwasianweekly.com.

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