Everyone can relate to this story. You pull up to the valet at, say, a hot downtown restaurant, only to realize you have no cash. At the end of the evening, you shamefully ask a friend if you can bum a couple of bucks.
"For me, this happened almost every time," says Dallas attorney John Adolph. "Although usually I would borrow from friends or go to an ATM, I always felt inconvenienced and wished there was a better way."
Adolph, who has always had an interest in startup companies and had even worked as an attorney for some, knew a cashless valet service was possible. We use credit cards — and smart phones — for just about everything, so why not valet parking? With that in mind, he started brainstorming ideas for the mobile app Parqer.
We use credit cards — and smart phones — for just about everything, so why not valet parking?
"I talked with valet companies (both management and drivers at the curb) and started mapping out how the app would work," he says. "We did some market research, ran some surveys, and having to carry cash was the biggest complaint about valet parking in Dallas. People use cards and phones for everything else."
Even armed with all of this information, he did what people sometimes do with a good idea: sat on it for a while. A graduate of SMU law, Adolph has spent the last seven years at Bracewell & Giuliani practicing finance and corporate law. He lives Lakewood with his wife, Erin, and two dogs. Point is, he had a life to live, and he knew that taking the app to the next level would take some require some blood, sweat and tears.
But every man has his breaking point.
"One night I ended up having to walk a few blocks to find an ATM while my wife waited at the table for me to come back," Adolph says. "At that point, I decided I needed to finally make it happen."
Adolph rolled out Parqer in Dallas on Memorial Day and expanded to Austin in May. The app can be used at 12 local restaurants and bars.
Here’s how the free app works: When you open it for the first time, you’ll be prompted to set up an account. After filling in your credit or debit card information, you’ll be taken to Parqer’s main screen, which contains a listing of all available locations, ordered by distance.
If you’re at a Parqer location, simply tap the name and proceed to checkout. You’ll see a listing of all applicable charges at that business, as well as a field to enter in your valet ticket number. The app works at valets that charge a fee as well those that complimentary service that requires only a tip.
When you’re satisfied with the charges —and you’ve tipped, of course — you confirm payment. When you’re ready to leave, hand the ticket to the valet and show him or her the confirmation screen, and you’re set.
Right now Adolph is focusing on growth. His goal is for customers to have the option to use Parqer everywhere so they don’t have to decide where to go based on how much cash they have on hand.
But Parqer isn’t only about the consumer; the app benefits the valet and its staff too.
"Parqer should be a valued partner for a valet company and the clients they serve," Adolph says. "We want to help them provide better customer service while increasing their traffic and collecting revenue that would otherwise be lost when customers park elsewhere."
Parqer currently serves locations in Dallas, Austin, Houston and Myrtle Beach. Austin venues include Olive & June, Parkside, Backspace, The Belmont, Max's Wine Dive and Sullivan's. "Jeffrey's and Clark's are coming online soon and we are always looking to add new locations to the service," says Adolph.