Author Archives: Whitney Larson

Bridging the Gap with Beats: Q&A Interview

The hospitality and service industries are among those hit the hardest from the COVID-19 shutdowns. The president of Vēmos, Whitney Larson, had the honor of sitting down (virtually of course) with the ACT | The App Association, the leading government relations organization based in Washington DC representing small and mid-sized software companies in the mobile app community, to discuss how the shutdowns have affected our industry and what we’re doing to empower hospitality workers during this time.

Q: So, first and foremost, can you give us a little background on who you are and what Vēmos is?

A: So a man walks into a bar…

Just kidding. Kind of.

I’m the co-founder and president of Vēmos, an analytics company that allows hospitality venues to manage, understand, and grow their business from a single dashboard. The software is used by bars, breweries, nightclubs, and concert venues across the country to expand their business and improve guest experience.

We took the e-commerce model and brought it to physical venues. E-commerce has trackable systems that allow them to provide personalized content to build repeatable, scalable businesses. Vemos allows hospitality venues to do the same thing. We combine data through reservations, guestlist entries, ID scan validations, and ticket sales, and combine that with their point of sale system to build comprehensive storyboards about their business. Are there certain types of music that drive up bar sales? What makes a Saturday more successful than a Friday? Is this my guest’s first visit or 20th visit? Our system answers these types of questions, and helps venues leverage this information to make smart decisions that deliver the best possible experience to its customers.

Q: Since your business is focused around the hospitality industry with your primary clients being bars, clubs, and concert venues, I’m sure the recent COVID-19 crisis has changed the landscape quite a bit. What have you and the team at Vēmos seen from your clients in the last few weeks as they have had to make rapid decisions to help keep their businesses afloat?

A: The hospitality industry has been hit hard by COVID-19. The industry accounts for 65 percent of the workforce that was laid off, and that’s only including March’s statistics. It’s pure survival mode for these establishments, and our clients are doing anything they can to weather the storm and live to see the light at the end of this. While shutdowns were absolutely necessary for the safety of society and to flatten the curve for our amazing healthcare workers, it’s a devastating loss to this industry. A lot of establishments around the country are facing losing their business and livelihood through no fault of their own, and they’re not sure where to turn or how to transform a physical gathering space into a virtual option. The biggest thing these venue owners need during this time is support from their community – whether that’s through getting customers to order takeout, buy gift cards, or simply be there for one another to brainstorm ways to innovate and survive a mandated shutdown.

Q: I know that you and your team have had to pivot from your original business model. Can you talk about the ways you’ve transitioned your priorities during this time?

A: We at Vēmos are natural problem solvers and aren’t afraid to try out wild ideas. One of our features is an events & ticketing platform, which our customers use to host their physical concerts and events. We knew that was our best bet at transforming physical spaces to virtual environments. We also knew that community and guest experience was still going to be important even in a shutdown. So we wanted to build virtual spaces that weren’t passive streams of content; we wanted to create virtual interactive events where guest experience remained at the forefront.

Within a day of the shutdowns being announced, we were working with our customers to set up interactive, virtual events using our platform. We’ve gotten chefs to lead interactive cooking classes, bartenders to lead mixologist classes, a Latin venue to host Zumba events, bakers leading baking classes, the list goes on. We even started hosting weekly virtual roundtable discussions with venues across the country for them to have a safe space to talk with one another about what they’re experiencing. All of these events have one thing in common: the hosts are engaging with attendees and building that sense of community.

But we knew there was more we as Vēmos could do for our own community of hospitality professionals. We wanted a way to give back and show support to all the workers that are forced to live without a job, so we created a virtual benefit concert called Bridge the Gap where proceeds are donated to industry professionals impacted by the COVID-19 shutdowns. The concert was put into motion quickly and will be live-streamed on Vēmos this coming Saturday, April 11 at 6pm.

Q: That’s amazing! How did the idea for the concert come to be?

A: Thank you! Our visions always start big, and we originally wanted to do a modern day LiveAid with the biggest acts performing across the country to raise money for this industry. While we were trying to figure out how to make that a reality, we reached out to our longtime customer, Icehouse Mpls, and they were on board with the idea right away. Together, we decided to start with a local benefit concert featuring Minnesotan musicians with proceeds going to a fund that directly impacts Minnesota hospitality workers.

Soon after we had this idea, artists began livestreaming their sets on Facebook Live and mainstream media began pulling together broadcasted living room concerts. And all of this is awesome! Our take on the structure of a benefit concert, however, has always been different.

We wanted this to be a true orchestrated effort where you knew who was performing when. We wanted it to be live and not pre-recorded, so it feels like a true experience. And we wanted it to be a ticketed event where the ticket is the donation because we felt that would have the biggest impact of actually raising donations for the fund. Our mantra from the beginning has been to price the ticket at the minimum wage, so that one ticket pays for one hour of work for a displaced worker. Buying a ticket to the event gets you access to the livestream, and there will be more ways to donate if anyone wants to on the night of the concert. And while the artists and fund are local, anyone across the country can be a part of it. That’s the true beauty of virtual concerts – there’s no capacity limitations or travel restrictions that exist with physical venues.

Q: How has it been planning an event that is completely remote/virtual?

A: We have an amazing team of local business leaders that have jumped on board pro bono to make this happen. That’s honestly been one of the coolest parts of this whole experience. Brian Liebeck, co-owner of Icehouse Mpls, did a phenomenal job of setting the lineup of artists at a rapid-fire pace. My business partner, Parag Shah, immediately jumped into action to get local establishments partnered with us to offer unique ticket packages, including pizza & beer delivery along with your ticket. Our Vēmos team whipped up a microsite to house all the event details, and quickly developed a web-based ticket authenticator to access the livestream. We have a marketing agency and PR firm helping spread the message far and wide to get as many people in the community attending. It’s truly been a group divide-and-conquer effort from individuals who just met for the first time a couple weeks ago, all driven by the common cause of making a difference for these workers.

Q: So how is this going to look for you guys on the backend of things? Will performers be on individual streams or in one place? Is the backend of this event going to look like a massive NASA control center? MY BRAIN IS IN A PRETZEL!

A: We have a great producer, Feedback.video, handling the technical logistics of the livestream itself. We’re leveraging Vimeo Livestream, which will be housed on tickets.vemos.io/bridgethegap behind the ticket authenticator. The artists and bands will be performing at Icehouse solo with full sanitation between sets. The concert venue and artists will strictly follow CDC protocol of social distancing – this is a very important issue to us that we’re all taking seriously. No patrons will be present, and no two bands will be in the same space at the same time. There are two performance areas in the venue to allow for alternating performances during the sanitation process of the previous performance.

Q: How can people find out more information about this event? And I have to ask…will there be others?

A: People can go to vemos.io/bridgethegap to get more information about the event, artists, fund, and our partners. We do see the potential for more of these to take place in the future around the country, and we haven’t lost sight of our original national vision. But for right now (aka this week), we’re focused on this inaugural one and will go from there.

Vēmos and Icehouse to Host Virtual Concert to Bridge the Gap for Hospitality Workers

Vēmos announced they will host a live streamed benefit concert in partnership with Icehouse called Bridge the Gap to raise money for local artists and hospitality workers who have been forced out of work due to the COVID-19 shutdowns.

The concert will be live streamed on April 11, from 6:00-10:00 P.M. and will feature local Minnesota artists, including headliners Gabe Douglas of 4ontheFloor and Pavielle.

“In Minnesota, nearly 50,000 hospitality workers have been laid off in the last few weeks due to COVID-19,” said Whitney Larson, Co-Founder and President of Vēmos. “It’s devastating to our industry, and we want to do what we can to help bridge the gap many in the industry are facing during this crisis.”

The livestream concert produced by Feedback will take place at Icehouse on April 11. The concert venue and artists will strictly follow CDC protocol on social distancing — artists will perform solo with full sanitation between sets, no patrons will be present, and no two bands will be in the same space at the same time.

“We are honored to be a part of this wonderful mission to support, not only our own employees, but all those in the hospitality industry who are struggling during these tough times,” said Brian Liebeck, Co-Owner of Icehouse.

Tickets to access the livestream are available at vemos.io/bridgethegap and are priced at the Minneapolis minimum wage of $11, with the idea that one ticket pays for one hour of work for displaced industry workers. Ticket proceeds will be donated to The North Stands, a Sanneh Foundation fund providing financial relief to hospitality industry professionals during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Vēmos has also partnered with The Silver Linings Fund created by Utepils Brewing to offer special ticket packages that include growlers from local breweries that are available for curbside pickup. Growler sales will be donated to The Silver Linings Fund.

The Bridge the Gap Benefit Concert would not be possible without the effort of local business leaders who pulled together as a team of volunteers to make the concert a reality, including Modern Foundation who is leading the digital marketing efforts, Schuler Publicity who is leading the publicity efforts, and Middlebrook Design who created the branding assets. The goal is to sell at least 10,000 tickets to raise a minimum of $110,000 to benefit displaced workers in the hospitality industry.

About Vēmos
Vēmos is an analytics company that allows hospitality venues to manage, understand and grow their business from a single dashboard. The software is used by bars, breweries, nightclubs, and concert venues across the country to grow their business and improve guest experience. Headquartered in Minneapolis, MN, Vēmos created the Bridge the Gap Benefit Concert to give back to its industry in its greatest time of need. https://www.vemos.io/

About Icehouse
Icehouse is a two-story fixture that offers American cuisine, drinks & live music in a historic industrial space. The space was originally the loading docks to the old Cedar Fuel and Ice, where over 75,000 tons of Ice was harvested each year, which later became a part of Icehouse studios where many audio and video recordings took place. Today, the space remains true to the original industrial aesthetic and honors its predecessors by employing its take on classical food, drink recipes, and keeping the music going.https://www.icehousempls.com

About Feedback
Feedback.video consists of a team of creative industry veterans committed to modern design and execution of original tech-forward new media video productions. The Feedback.video team has been executing interactive installations with live public and private events across the country for over 8 years. Although very tech forward, it is their passion and love for the human side of interactive experiences that drives their creative design. https://feedback.video/

About Modern Foundation
Modern Foundation is an analytics first marketing consultancy, accelerating brands that enhance human performance.  Modern Foundation partnered to create the Bridging the Gap Benefit Concert, because financial stress is one of the leading issues that can have a negative impact on human performance, health and wellbeing. https://modern.foundation/

The Biggest Opportunity You’re Missing

It’s a story that’s too often told, but it’s arguably the most important story there is. Because it often becomes the difference between life and death of a nightlife venue.

This past weekend, I was invited to a product launch party that was hosted at a third-party cider venue. The place was packed. I’m talking bursting at the seams packed. And they only had 2 bartenders working.

It took over 30 minutes to get our first round of drinks, so I just paid for everyone in my group to ease the burdens of the bartender needing to do multiple transactions. Then it took another 25 minutes to get our second round. At this point, we’ve spent nearly an hour of our time just waiting to get a drink, so we left to go drink somewhere else. We supported the launch like we wanted to, but staying here wasn’t worth our time anymore.

The largest e-commerce retailers spend millions of dollars a year to understand their customers. The nightlife industry has yet to change its mindset that it’s beneficial to have the same solutions that thriving e-commerce companies use, which is available to them at a monthly price that’s less than my one tab. Why are we so stuck in our old ways?

Aside from the issue of being grossly understaffed, there’s a bigger issue at hand for the venue: they have no data to improve. Think about it, the largest e-commerce retailers spend millions of dollars a year to understand their customers’ habits so well that they’re predicting what they’re going to buy next. Amazon alone spent nearly $19 billion in 2019 on their marketing efforts and they achieved 20% net revenue growth.

But we as a nightlife industry have yet to change our mindset that it’s beneficial to have solutions that e-commerce has to experience that level of growth. At the end of the night, this venue is going to look at their POS reports and use it as a guide for how they performed that day, and it’ll tell them a very inaccurate story. They have no idea how many people were inside their venue, which is a huge issue. Here’s why:

  • I paid for all of my friends’ drinks. Their POS has no idea that my friends even existed. It’ll show them the number of transactions that were made, but it won’t show them the number of people that were there.


  • If they knew how many guests were there, they’d know the average amount each guest spent, often known as average cost per transaction (CPT). My tab was $160 total on two rounds of drinks for my group of 10. Their POS is just going to show 1 transaction for $160. But in reality, the average CPT is $8. That’s a huge difference between a CPT of $160 and a CPT of $8. They’re going to operate their business believing every guest spends $160, when in reality, the average spend across all guests is $8.


  • While their labor to sales ratio may look favorable, they would have likely made thousands more dollars if they would have been staffed adequately. A couple extra bartenders would have reduced the wait time for people getting drinks, resulting in more drinks in people’s hands, resulting in more money. But because they don’t know how many people there were, they’re bound to make the same staffing decision for a future launch party looking at incomplete POS reports to guide their decision.

But why does this matter?

It matters because this is the type of information that needs to guide decisions to continue to grow and build their business. And because this was a launch party for a different company, I’d estimate 80% of the people that were there had never been to that venue before. And statistics say that 70% are unlikely to come back on their own. Now add in the terrible experience of waiting an hour to get drinks, and that percentage likely increases.

But what’s worse is because they weren’t tracking who came, they have no log of who was there to be able to reach these people again. Do you think Amazon grew to be an $87 billion company by not knowing who’s on their site and not understanding what drives their sales?

I’ve spent over a decade working alongside venue owners and I know firsthand that many are putting their life savings into their venue. I know they want it to succeed. They aren’t looking to throw all their money into a business that’s going to die in the average 18-month timespan. But I also know that most aren’t thinking about how to grow year after year. They tell me they’re “surviving.” They run without insight, hoping people walk through their doors when they open. They aren’t investing in systems that allow them to experience continuous growth.

The Missed Opportunity

Had this venue been using the Vemos ID scanner at the door, they would have had the exact number of people that attended their venue that day. They also would have the names, gender, age, and geographic location of all of those attendees in their dashboard. And had they connected their POS to their Vemos dashboard, they would have the exact CPT readily displayed to them. They’d know which guests made the transaction and what they purchased. They’d be able to define the type of customers that have the biggest impact on their bottom line, and have a strategy to go out and attract more of those types of customers. They’d know who was a new vs. returning guest, and would have been able to get some of those new guests back in the door.

This system is what allows a nightlife venue to operate within an e-commerce model at a monthly cost that’s less than my tab. It’s not hard. It’s not expensive. But it can make the difference between surviving and thriving.

How Community-Based ID Scanning Can Provide Safety

As a Minneapolis-based business in the nightlife industry, it’s hard to see a dominant player in the Minneapolis nightlife scene be struck with the terror of an active shooter inside their venue. It’s the third incident of a shooting inside a Minneapolis venue since we first started talking about this back in 2018. In the days since this incident, we’ve been spending our time thinking about those involved — the victims, the staff, the owners, the guests — which has refueled the fire inside of us to do our part to help keep nightlife venues across the country a fun, safe place for everyone to be.

It’s a mission that’s driven us from the beginning. We believe the best security is being able to stop an incident before it happens. That community-wide communication and collaboration makes an area stronger. That with more data comes more knowledge. And that knowledge is what drives not only one business, but an entire community forward.

Usually data is used for positive proactive reasons — to collect insight on what drives a business, to get a deeper understanding on valuable customer habits, and to bridge the gap between a venue and its consumer to drive loyalty and experience.

But data can also be used when the unexpected happens. When information from IDs is tracked, logged and timestamped, it’s able to act as the puzzle piece to help authorities track down the suspect of a crime. It empowers a venue to place a restriction on that person so they’re not allowed back inside. It alerts other venues in the community that the person was banned fo a specific reason should that person try to go into their establishment. It’s this type of network effect that helps band a community together for the greater good of public safety.

Data and ID Scanning, of course, is not the only answer; but it is a step toward being able to take an action in the wake of an incident. There’s still work that needs to be done to continue to build safe environments for all. We stand behind our industry peers in Minneapolis and across the nation. We believe in the longevity of the nightlife industry and will continue to push ourselves to build tools and systems that help our customers. And we’ll continue to pursue partnerships with the police and city officials to build a network of information that works to keep venues, staff, and their patrons safe.

Finally. A venue management app that’s both powerful and simple.

We at Vēmos are excited to unveil our latest Venue Management app — a project that’s been in the works for months with a critical focus on user experience.

We knew the nightlife industry needed a solution that was robust enough to manage an entire venue from one app, but simple enough that venues didn’t need to worry about more training, all at a price point that made sense. So we set out to achieve this.

And now that product is available.

Introducing the first truly comprehensive solution to manage your entire venue, starting at just $50/month. Reservation management? Check. Guestlist management? Check. Events & Ticketing. Check & check. You can even collect walk-up cover charges at the door with cash, credit, Apple Pay or Google Pay. And yes, you can do all of this by simply toggling between Reservations, Guestlist and General Admission screens to accommodate every guest.


We truly built this with the user in mind. Simplicity on the surface to get up and running as quickly as possible. Complexity behind the scenes so you’re presented with information when you need it most.


Let’s take a deeper look.

VIP Reservation Management

Easily manage all your tables in one view, allow staff to sell available tables, and even take table deposits to reduce no-shows. See full guest details to provide a personalized experience as soon as they arrive. Track table spend and party size so you can make smarter decisions in the future about what type of VIP guests have the biggest impact on your business.


Guestlist Management

Never flip through another piece of paper again. Your guestlist is now digital and always up-to-date. Whether guests are added from promoters, ticket sales, your website, or staff, it all funnels instantly to one place, making check-in a breeze. Plus, all checkins tie back to guest profiles, so you always know what types of guests to attract to keep your nights busy.


Cover Charge Management

Like a POS for your door, the Vēmos GA screen gives you true accountability at your door. Add as many entrance types (aka cover price based on promotions) as you want. All users are automatically added as referrers. Now you can collect cover payment from every walk-up guest, know who’s getting in for free or at a discount, and track which promoters are bringing them in for easy payouts.


Events & Ticketing

Create, manage, and sell tickets to your events, and get paid from your sales as soon as a ticket is purchased. All pre-sale tickets will automatically appear in your guestlist with ticket details displayed. Easily handle walkup sales with Cover Charge Mangement, so all tickets are accounted for no matter when they were purchased. Uncover what marketing efforts reach the best guests, which ticket types drive the highest bar sales, and when you can expect to sell out based on historic trends.


Guest Profiles

All your guest details in your pocket. See each guest’s unique profile from their last visit to what they’ve spent at your venue. Read notes from your staff, and see how to connect with them all at your fingertips. Have a recurring guestlist guest that spends a lot at the bar? Upgrade them to a VIP table next time and make their next experience unforgettable.


Insight Only Vēmos Can Give You

Other systems only track your VIP guests. With Vēmos, you get rich insight on all your guests so you can make smart decisions that drive profitability. Connect ID Scan with your POS to track individual guest spend, and unlock even deeper insights about every guest that walks through your door so you can continue to maximize your revenue.