Buttery wants to make it easier to shop local liquor stores with your phone

Buttery co-founders Gaurav Mehta (left) and Gaurav Tanna (right.)
Buttery co-founders Gaurav Mehta (left) and Gaurav Tanna (right.)

Hunting for a Taiwanese whiskey or a Trappist ale for this weekend’s party?

A new Boston startup, Buttery, wants to make it simple to use an app to shop the local liquor store and have a delivery show up on your doorstep within a few hours.

But Buttery will have to battle for customers with another Boston-based app, Drizly, which has raised about $18 million in venture capital funding since it was founded in mid-2013. Buttery launched with 16 Boston-area retailers only last month, and it hasn’t yet raised any outside money.

Buttery’s cofounders, Gaurav Mehta and Gaurav Tanna, originally met as undergrad students at Mumbai University in India, and they both later worked as software engineers and managers at Verizon in Waltham.

Why the name Buttery? “In olden times,” Mehta explains, “the cellar where the wine and whiskey casks were placed was called the buttery — and the butler was responsible for the buttery. Basically, it’s another name for pantry.”

Mehta stresses that his business is about helping wine and spirits retailers make their inventory visible on shoppers’ mobile devices, and facilitating either a delivery or an in-store pick-up. That’s different from Drizly, which relies on retailers to make deliveries but otherwise positions its own brand as the one serving the consumer. On Buttery’s app (right), you choose a store you’d like to shop from, but you can also search for obscure products across all 16 of the stores that currently work with Buttery. The app currently offers more than 30,000 different products.

Most of the stores working with Buttery deliver, and Mehta says those in the city typically do it within two hours. “There are a few stores which don’t deliver,” he says. “Some don’t have the logistical power.” He says that the retailers working with Buttery cover most of the terrain inside the Route 128 belt. Some tack on an extra fee for deliveries, and some don’t. (Unlike Drizly’s app, you can’t yet track the progress of a driver bringing  that case of beer to your doorstep.)

Retailers get access to a Web-based dashboard that shows them purchasing trends and also products that consumers may be viewing, but not buying through the app. Stores pay a monthly fee to be part of Buttery’s app, plus a flat fee on every transaction that happens, but Mehta says they’re still experimenting with the pricing structure. Mehta says that he and Tanna have bootstrapped the business so far, working out of Boston University’s Buzz Lab, but they are just beginning to try to raise funding.

Scott Kirsner writes the Innovation Economy column every Sunday in the Boston Globe, in which he tracks entrepreneurship, investment, and big company activities around New England.
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