Restaurants give high marks to self-pour beer systems

| by Elliot Maras
Restaurants give high marks to self-pour beer systems

Bay Street Biergarten in Charleston, South Carolina, offers a self-pour beer wall. Photo courtesy of Table Tap.

Editor's Note: This is the second in a three-part series on self-pour technology.

Restaurants that have installed self-pour beer systems are pleased with the customer response to these systems that allow people to serve themselves beer by the ounce. A random sampling of establishments interviewed by Kiosk Marketplace also indicated that the systems are reliable and fairly easy to use.

Self-pour technology enables restaurants to maximize revenue by offering more variety, including more premium-priced offerings, and it significantly reduces "giveaways" and product waste, as noted in part one of this three-part series.

Restaurant offers different options

Bay Street Biergarten in Charleston, South Carolina, has offered a 30-tap self-pour system from Table Tap for four years. Customers can request RFID cards, which they typically credit with $20 to $30, according to manager Shawn Cramer.

IPads on the tables track ounces dispensed and display the customer's account balance in real-time as he or she pours from the tap.

"People do enjoy the self-serve option, especially for the larger parties," Cramer said. Employees teach customers how to use the self-pour taps.

An iPad displays the amount of beer dispensed, and allows customers
to order food and drinks, surf the web, control the jukebox and more.
Photo courtesy of Table Tap.

Seven tables equipped with taps at Bay Street Biergarten have iPads that allow guests to pour their own beer without having to leave their seats. An employee using a master iPad enters the number of guests authorized for that table and clicks to activate an electronic valve in the beer lines enabling patrons to pour their own beer.

These guests do not have to use RFID cards since the taps are dedicated to the guests at the table. The iPad tracks the amount dispensed for those guests and forwards the billing information to the restaurant's POS. The iPad displays information about the beer, the venue and offers limited internet access.

"It's engaging for the customer to play around with the screen while they're drinking beer," said Jeff Libby, who founded Table Tap in 2006.

Table Tap also offers an app that integrates with Untappd, a social app that lets customers search for beers, breweries and other venues.

Maintenance for the system has been fairly simple, according to Cramer, the Bay Street Biergarten manager. When one beer is replaced with another in the tap, it is necessary to drain the lines, he said. The employees can taste-test the new beer to make sure no residue remains from the previous one. This usually requires draining about eight ounces of beer from the tap.

"It's really easy to work with once you figure it out," Cramer said. 

Licensing and support fees vary

Rich Baker, a restaurant industry veteran who is building his first restaurant, will offer a 36-tap beer wall in his tap room inside a hotel in Charlottesville, Virginia. The restaurant, called Renewal, will feature Southern "low country" cuisine.

Baker, who has installed numerous Pour My Beer self-pour systems, said the licensing and software support fees vary among the self-pour system providers.  

The Pour My Beer system, which integrates with POS and menu display systems, is hard-wired as opposed to Wi-Fi based, Baker said. 

"If you're going to do something that does high volume, you want to have it hard-wired," Baker said. "We want something that you can't hack." Each transaction is written to the terminal, which writes it to the server.

For the self-pour environment, Baker also adjusts the flow meter on his taps so that the beer flows more slowly from the keg, which creates less foam.   

Self-pour customers are charged by the ounce.
Photo courtesy of Pour My Beer.

"Generally in self-serve you want the beer to flow slower," he said. "Instead of two ounces per second, we might get that down to one-and-a-half ounces per second. It's not a huge amount, but it's enough to make a difference."

Baker said that the self-pour concept is not for every restaurant. For instance, it wouldn't work for a fine dining establishment, and in some restaurants, the layout of the space simply is not conducive to the system, he said. 

Self-pour concept enables expansion

Beck's Tap Room, a casual dining restaurant based in Cedar Falls, Iowa, has offered the iPourIt Inc. self-pour technology for three years, according to owner Darren Beck, who has expanded the concept to three restaurants that offer the self-pour system.

Beck had the system installed in 2015 after deciding to focus less on sports and more on the craft beers that had become popular. For a new technology, the system has experienced surprisingly little downtime, he said.

"The tap wall was a unique way to have a differentiator between us and everyone else," he said. "At the end of the day, our menu is a lot like everybody else's. [But] nobody ever expects to be able to pour their own beer." 

Customers can easily use the system once an employee explains how it works. With the iPourIt system, customers scan their driver's license and receive an RFID bracelet to control the tap. When they check out, their credit card is charged automatically.

"Once [guests] have done it once, it's a no brainer for them," Beck said. 

How much effect the self-pour offering has had on beer sales is hard to judge since Beck changed the restaurant's concept at the same time he installed the self-pour tap, but Beck thinks it has contributed to improved sales. The self-pour system does not yet integrate with Beck's Aloha POS software, but he expects the integration will be available in the near future — at least in part because of the iPourIt business model.

"I chose iPourIt because they had a residual income model and I felt strongly that it was important for the company we did business with to have residual income from every sale to help them develop their software into the future and be able to support what they sell," Beck said. "I always get nervous with new technologies that don't have a residual income business model. They often go out of business if they don't." 

Tennis club finds benefits

South Regency Tennis and Fitness Club in Miamisburg, Ohio, installed a self-pour system this year in a mezzanine area as a way to provide beer without having to have a server. Customers purchase an RFID card at the front desk to activate the taps, then return the cards and pay at the front desk.

The club selected a self-contained system from Irish vendor Drink Command after researching different systems over the internet.

"It's another amenity of the club," said the club's managing partner, who wished to remain unnamed. The taps include three "regular" beers and one craft beer. Members find the system easy to use, the managing partner said.

The self-pour technologies that allow restaurants to offer more varieties of beer in a more user-friendly manner have allowed many different types of establishments to take advantage of the popularity of craft beer. In part three of this three-part series, we will explore how pizza restaurants have benefited from self-pour technology.

Topics: Bill Payment Kiosks, Customer Experience, Interactive / Touchscreen, Manufacturers, Restaurants, Self-Checkout

Elliot Maras

Elliot Maras is the editor of and

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