Glowing purple at The Central Bar in Manhattan is a payphone-sized box, lined with seven small doors, that you wouldn’t recognize. Meet Juicebox: the credit-card-operated public charging station that hopes to save you from disconnection next time your phone dies on a night out.
Patrons at a small handful of New York City bars have been charging their phones with Juicebox prototypes over the past three weeks.
They swipe a credit card to unlock one of the machine’s doors, which opens to a bundle of charging cords and a colored light. After hooking their phones to the appropriate cord, they shut the door and walk away. To retrieve it, they swipe their card again to unlock the door and pay a flat fee, usually about $2, for the service.
Although Juicebox plans to expand to other industries, the idea was created in a bar, for bars, by two bartenders who would often get asked to charge patrons’ phones.
“They always said no,” Juicebox COO Jack Phelps says. “The last thing a bartender needs to do is spill Grey Goose on someone’s phone.”
Addressing the desire to charge away from home is, Phelps admits, somewhat of a no-brainer. The founders saved the brains for designing the device in a way that wouldn’t be a pain for bars to maintain and would fit into their ambiance like “a piece of furniture, rather than a kiosk.”
Juiceboxes are free for venues to install and have 4G connections that alert headquarters if they need maintenance. And, at least relatively, they’re pretty. A stainless steel, uncluttered design makes Juicebox look like the iPhone compared to competitors such as gocharge, which connote instead more of a clunky 2005 flip phone. The startup even made a custom box with a white exterior for a bar called Agave in order to blend in better with its Santa Fe-style interior design.
While the company is trialing some revenue sharing incentives with bars, it hopes to eventually convince them to install the boxes as a service to their customers.
“It makes people stay longer, drink more, and bring their friends,” Phelps says.
If bars find that true, Juicebox could pocket the full charging fee while exploring other revenue streams like advertising that would return the cost of installing units faster than a $2-per-charge can. What if Grey Goose, for example, could sponsor your phone charge?
“It’s a really direct and novel point of engagement with users…both when they start their session and when they retrieve their phone,” Phelps says, “and they’re already at a bar buying drinks — that can be huge.”