Tools like Zapier, which allow us to get us something off the ground in just a few minutes, are really valuable. -Dan Nelson, The Ruby Tap
Social distancing, while necessary, is devastating to businesses built around people gathering. The Ruby Tap—a self-serve wine bar in suburban Milwaukee, Wis.—is surviving thanks to a supportive community, a willingness to improvise, and tools that make it quick to try new things.
People can't gather at The Ruby Tap right now, and it's unclear when that will change. That meant it was time to improvise, so they started offering curated wine for curbside pickup on their website. It's been enough.
"We had over 300 orders, and I want to say close to $20,000 in revenue," said Nelson, who co-owns The Ruby Tap with his wife Sarah Nelson and her sister Brooke Boomer. "To some people that isn't a big number, but for us it's enough to keep us in business while all this is going on."
Building a new business model from scratch
The Ruby Tap team knew that social distancing was coming, and knew they needed a plan to stay afloat while the bar was shut down. So they started selling wine bundles for pickup on their website.
"We threw up a form using our Stripe API that allowed people to purchase bottles," said Nelson. But the form wasn't enough: the team needed to track sales efficiently. That's where automation comes in.
"We were getting so many orders so quickly with preferences, number of bottles, some people saying reds, whites or mixed—it wasn't manageable using only the Stripe interface," said Nelson. "So we created a Zap that allowed us to take that information from Stripe and pull it into a Google spreadsheet."
The spreadsheet became the dashboard that powered the entire operation.
"We added some additional columns," said Nelson. "That way we could specify whether something is ready for pickup, whether it's already been picked up, and it also let us leave notes for ourselves."
This spreadsheet—and the automation that fills it out—helped The Ruby Tap fulfill over 300 orders.
Automation in an era of improvisation
Every business needs to improvise right now. Nelson is quick to say he doesn't have any answers—just that The Ruby Tap is trying to be quick when it comes to trying new things.
"We don't know what we're doing any more than anybody else, but we do know that we have to act quickly," said Nelson. "We can try things quickly if we just get creative and simple with our solution."
Nelson could have coded the Stripe-to-Sheets workflow—he's got development experience. But tools like Zapier means he doesn't have to, which enables The Ruby Tap to improvise.
"I could build it from scratch, but my time is better spent elsewhere," said Nelson. "Especially if we need to be creative and possibly throw new ideas at the wall, I don't want to spend a ton of time working on something that we might scrap or might not work."