Surkus is a “crowdcasting’” platform that connects users to events, then pays them to attend.

By Adam Campbell-Schmitt
Updated August 17, 2017
Credit: Chris Ryan / Getty Images

A successful opening can have the power to make or break a new restaurant. Any burgeoning business would love to have the buzz associated with hour-long waits for bone broth and cronuts. Luckily, if turnout is a concern, as with most things in life, there’s an app for that.

Surkus, recently profiled in The Washington Post, connects its users with companies, restaurants and event promoters looking to fill seats, form lines, or otherwise engage an audience. The service has been up and running for two years and currently includes the New York City, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Miami and Chicago markets. Unlike those focus group barkers you see in crowded places like Times Square and the Las Vegas Strip, who cast a wide net hoping to find folks in a certain demographic, Surkus's algorithm uses its in-app profiles and information from Facebook to directly target potential attendees, which is known as “crowdcasting.” Trying to pack a new nightclub? You may want to find millennials who like drinking and Diplo.

For the app’s users, the difference between Surkus and, say, signing up for an old-fashioned interest-based newsletter or joining a Facebook group, is that showing up to an event can earn them some cash. Standing in line at a new coffee shop or filling the seat at a movie premiere could be worth anywhere from $5 to $100, the Post reports, with most payouts averaging between $25 and $40, which are typically rolled into the promotions budget. Attendees (who don’t skip out early) receive their hard-earned money on PayPal.

But just attending a Surkus-assisted event isn’t enough to get you paid. You’ve also got to look like you’re enjoying yourself. Much the way Uber and Lyft passengers get rated by drivers (in addition to the reverse), people who hope to get paid for partying have to play the part.

As pointed out by the Post, this practice does raise some questions about the ethics of padding a restaurant opening with a bunch of paid extras. In fact, often times users are asked to be discrete about the reason they’re there. But hey, when it comes to business, sometimes projecting the image of success can be an important factor in actually achieving it.