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A calibrated test for drinking drivers


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Russ Smith knows the bar patrons responsible enough to pay $3.25 to take a breathalyzer test most likely will be the couple who split a bottle of wine or who nurse two cocktails. “People dancing on tables with a lampshade on their head are obviously too drunk to drive,” Smith, franchisor of Breathe Legal in Park City Utah, points out.

Breathalyzer

For the most part, breathalyzers in bars and restaurants have been viewed as novelty items for customers, and a false sense of security for bar owners. But Smith plans to change that—as does the state of Utah, which just passed a law to ensure breathalyzers in bars are accessible and accurate. (An earlier version of the law that made the machines mandatory was softened after national media made fun of it, according to the Salt Lake Tribune.)

Smith believes other states will follow suit, thereby creating a lucrative market for his franchisees. The offering is a franchise rather than a license agreement, Smith says, so that they can control the calibrations of the machines. In addition to the vending revenues, franchisees have another revenue stream, ironically, advertising from liquor companies on the screens of the machines. It’s a tool for self-policing. The results are private—police don’t see the records, Smith says. 

The cost of the machines is $2,600, and franchisees must buy five. The straws are a penny a piece. “Our goal is to get 10 percent of drinkers to use it,” Smith says.

 

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