Story by Jim Fahy and photos by Brit Huckabay
“Taylor, it’s a fairly common name,” says Josh Taylor, quite matter-of-factly. “There could be multiple Taylors in here right now…” “Like me!” says his older brother Jay. “Which tab are we putting this on?”
“He doesn’t have one open,” Josh says with a smirk.
Portico is comfortably ensconced in the Habitat Bar at The Grand Bohemian Hotel with the brothers Taylor— both Homewood natives. A common name, no doubt, but as the creators of TabX, the Taylors are up to something far from ordinary—but rather something they’re hoping will become ubiquitous as Uber.
TabX allows you to open and close a bar tab from your phone. A bar-hopper’s dream, users can start the tab on their way to a bar, keep multiple tabs open, and close them all out from the comfort your bed—all without reaching for your wallet or needlessly waiting in line behind a throng of fellow revelers—making it perfect for those in a hurry to catch a show or relieve a babysitter. You’ll still need to place your order with the bartender, but they’ll be able to easily locate your tab thanks to a unique 4-digit code at the end of your last name (e.g. Taylor1234). TabX is also integrated with Uber and Lyft, which means you can grab safe passage home while still leaving your bartender a generous tip (unless,of course, you’re a terrible person).
The service is free to the bars, which is a nice lagniappe considering they make money pouring drinks—not closing tabs. For the user, each tab will incur a 97 cent charge—a small price to pay for a quick escape. The genesis of the app was as simple as the concept itself: “I was at the Pizitz, waiting on my tab,” says Jay, a copywriter with a long tenure in the ad business. “It was taking quite awhile, and I thought, ‘There ought to be an app.’ So, I started talking to Josh about it. One thing led to another and we started talking more and more…”
“One thing happened in between there,” interjects Josh. “I said, ‘That’s the first good idea you’ve ever had!’” “It was the kind of thing where bringing Josh in for his business skills and background just made sense,” continues Jay. “We brought in a couple of coders and a designer…That’s how it started. Otherwise, it would’ve been me talking with my wife and, in a few years, going ‘I had that idea!’” Simplicity is at the heart of TabX. By restricting the app to a few core functions, TabX can more easily integrate with the dozens of point-of-sale systems on the market. “Having those relationships with the point-of-sale companies is important—and not easy,” says Josh. “But then as we tell them about our plan, they are showing us a lot of love. And they’re going out of their way to make this happen.”
That said, things are moving a little slower than expected. The Taylors were hoping to launch TabX in April, but writing proper code doesn’t come as quickly as having a good idea. The app is now projected to go live this summer (perhaps by the time you’rereading this). A bummer, sure, but they’d rather come correct. “A lot of people talk about being first-to-market as being this advantage,” Josh continues. “The fact that we’re 18th to market (or whatever it is) gives us the advantage of looking at what other companies have done. Being first-to-market’s not always a benefit.” This is key. Though some of their competitors boast about being in major markets, being in, say, ten bars in New York City is hardly market domination. “If you can only use this app in 10 percent of the places you go in Birmingham, then you’ll never use it,” says Josh. “You have to be available in 90 percent of the places you go. So we’re developing these integrations with other companies—and it all takes time.”
But the Taylor’s patience is paying off. TabX is poised to be in a majority of Birmingham’s bars upon launch, and popular spots like Marty’s and the Louis Bar at the Pizitz —where this all started—are not only excited to receive them, but the latter offered not only to serve as a guinea pig but brand the app on their upcoming menus. The owners of The Paramount were so impressed that they came on board as investors. “Paper Doll just recently changed their point-of-sale system and told the company they went with, ‘I will go with you as long as you integrate with Tab X,’” marvels Josh.Should their launch prove successful, TabX is totally scalable into other markets.
From Birmingham, the plan is to expand into Tuscaloosa and Auburn, before moving on to other mid-size cities it the Southeast—particularly Nashville, where the extra tourist exposure could provide a real boost toward becoming a national brand. In the meantime, Jay and Josh are enjoying the ride—not to mention each other’s company. They have a real chemistry, and it shows. “You need to enjoy the chaos,” says Josh—ever the entrepreneur—with a laugh as he closes out his tab the old-fashioned way. “I’ll say this: I think the job that he’s done, and what he’s brought to the table, has been exceptional,” says Jay. “Which is a terrible thing for an older brother to have to say.