Don't be surprised if you have never heard of Nigh, it's a new social and service app only catering to Boulder, Colo. — for now. The goal, said founder Josh Ritzer, is to take it nationwide once fully developed.
"Nigh is all about connecting local businesses with people nearby, and to bring them customers when they want more customers," said Ritzer, likening his app to TikTok, but for restaurants and other operations (such as yoga studios and gyms) to share deals and specials with a select, nearby audience. "We are bringing local back, because back in the day you went to the local pub and felt community. Now we are trying to bring community to that local pub."
The app works by having restaurants post casual videos for subscribers to see. But, unlike other social media apps, Nigh focuses on drops, or special deals venues can launch whenever they are looking to showcase a new menu item, fill seats during a slow time, or host something special for customers such as a Valentine's Day dinner or chef's tasting. These quick videos, the drops, can each be purchased by subscribers through a ticketing system on the app. A portion of the sale goes to Nigh, and the rest to the restaurant. The tickets are sold in limited quantities for a short period of time, and only to the people who geographically can actually make it to the event.
For example, a restaurant might want to get people in on a Tuesday from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m., so they create a deal where customers can get two slices of pizza for $5. The restaurant posts a video stating the drop, and any subscriber that can actually get to the spot within the time of the deal is able to purchase a ticket. The area a person is located in, in relation to the drop, is called the Nigh Zone. As the clock ticks down, the Nigh Zone shrinks. The deal ends once the time is up or all tickets are sold.
The concept of drops, said Ritzer, comes from an idea similar to how a company might release a limited-edition sneaker, a collector's toy, or tickets for a special show. The drops are for pop-up events, exclusive experiences, and sudden, short-lived deals.
"There are several different ways it helps local businesses, and restaurants particularly, one being to maximize their capacity," said Ritzer. "If you can get a certain amount of people in during those slow hours it can be the difference between failure and profitably."
Ritzer, who had worked in business and computers for more than a decade, officially launched the Boulder pilot of Nigh at the beginning of 2023 along with co-founders Rob Conroy and Christian Dokken. Since then more than 150,000 videos from more than 400 local business have dropped. According to the last data poll, 12% of users viewing drop videos are buying tickets, and more than 4,000 customer tickets have been purchased. Right now the data from Nigh shows 79% of drops have customers arriving within 60 minutes of a notification.
Though modeled on certain social media platforms, Nigh has its own unique qualities, Ritzer said, giving an example from Wahoo's Fish Taco, a fast-casual chain that started in California and now has around 60 locations, including one in Boulder.
"Wahoo's spent a significant amount on Instagram and TikTok to build brand precession and engagement, but they said it didn't increase sales," Ritzer said, adding that one of the company's social media videos received more than 14,000 "likes" and still there was no increase in business. "Those platforms are global platforms with global algorithms. They aren't local."
On the other hand, when Wahoo's Fish Taco does a drop through Nigh, everyone who sees it and engages with that video is within driving distance of that particular restaurant. Right now, Nigh isn't hitting targets in other countries, states, or even cities outside of Boulder. And even when it expands to other markets, subscribers won't get drops for areas they can't get to.
"We are going to be the first local platform with 100% local algorithms, and it's the best return on investment, time and money," he said. "What we guarantee is that everyone that sees your content and your brand can get to your restaurant. You aren't wasting time getting ‘likes’ from people that will never come to visit."
So far it appears to work, at least according to Brad Roumaya who co-owns The Waffle Lab, which has restaurants in Boulder and Fort Collins, Colo. The Waffle Lab was one of the first businesses Nigh signed on, though both Ritzer and Roumaya admit it took a while for the partnership to happen.
"Josh was like, 'Would you like to get 70 people in between 2 and 4 p.m. on a Thursday?'" said Roumaya, who had said that was an extremely slow time for the restaurant. "I was like, ‘prove it,’ and they did it."
Now Roumaya sees the bigger picture and he is a staunch supporter. Today, a drop hosted on Nigh by The Waffle Lab may include a half-order of chicken and waffles for $5, or a drink special. The trick, said Roumaya, is most people aren't going to just order what’s on sale. They will get the drop and then order whatever they want. And then, he added, they come back another day without the discount. That's the real benefit of Nigh: Getting people in the door who might not have heard of the restaurant before, and then hooking them so they become repeat customers.
"Nigh helped get our names out there to students [at the University of Colorado in Boulder] that didn't even know we were there, and we are located practically on campus," said Roumaya. "Now, we are committed to helping Nigh get more users and more downloads to get it to take off, because we believe it will help the local business around town to thrive."
The cost to download Nigh is free for the consumer, and, according to Roumaya, only comes with a small fee for the restaurant (and other businesses in the Nigh network). He added the cost feels manageable, especially when you look at the marketing aspects of the service. While venues can make any drops they want, the real purpose is to bring people in during slow times, rainy days or when something new needs a push. Then it’s the business owner’s job to make sure those people have a great time and come back again without a drop to persuade them.
"We are solving a problem by helping places get last-minute customers, and if demand is high, prices should go up with demand," said Ritzer. "I think of Nigh as ushering this next wave of tech and as a way we can transform restaurant profits."
Ritzer said Nigh is moving fast, but he wants to build the company slowly in order to get it right. While Boulder currently is the only city where Nigh is available, by next year people might see it all over the country.