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  • VOL 08, ISSUE 01 • WINTER 2020
Pour Yourself a Tall, Cool One

Pour Yourself a Tall, Cool One

Self-serve beer taps let patrons taste more while you make more money

How many times have you walked into a bar, craving a cold beer, and were forced to wait? We've all been there. So have your customers. Self-serve beer taps can help alleviate this issue for all involved.

Self-serve beer taps started coming on to the scene in the last decade, but have really taken off in the last few years, with bars featuring table taps and full beer walls — and patrons love it.

"It eliminates the wait at the bar and we charge by the ounce so guests pay as they go," said Keegan Moon, operating partner at Chicago's DineAmic Group. "Sometimes they don't want a full beer or may drink more slowly and want to top it off a little more."

DineAmic was an early adopter of the table-tap concept when it installed systems at their then bar in Chicago's River North neighborhood in 2009. The sports bar currently has five tables each with two beer taps and the group also installed 10 two-tap tables at another nearby sports bar. One table has four taps — two are dedicated to spirits, which Moon said are good when patrons want to do shots of tequila, bourbon or others. People pour what they want and pay by the ounce. And they never have to wait.

"It permits us to give better service," Moon said. "They're high-volume locations and sometimes servers have five tables and it can take a little longer. We're serving them better by them serving themselves." All the while, the restaurant can generate more revenue.

"One of the unintended consequences of our system was that our clients generate higher revenue on equivalent volume," said Joseph McCarthy, VP of sales for I Pour It, a vendor of self-service systems, based in Orange County, Calif. "If an average pint is $6, our clients are generating $8 on the same volume because people are trying and sampling more expensive product."

pour my beer
Pour My Beer

The I Pour It system, which was in 50 locations across 24 states at the end of 2015, installs beer walls for their clients with multiple taps. It costs about $1,100 per tap and earns a penny per ounce of beer poured as a subscription fee.

Wheeling, Ill.,-based Innovative Tap Solutions, offers both table and wall systems through its Pour My Beer product. Like I Pour It, its system comes with digital screens to show what beer is being poured from that tap. It's an interactive experience that allows a customer to get more information about the beer, the brewery, how it was brewed, what ingredients go into the beer, food pairings and more.

Both systems offer efficiency, whether tapping beer, wine or coffee. Not that any restaurant will ever do away with bartending staff, self-service systems can help a bar reduce spillage and free pours and help increase sales.

"We've done tests to show that our system — say a 10-tap wall against a group of bartenders — will sell four to five times more beer than they will," said Josh Goodman, the founder of Pour My Beer. "My customers can pay $100 for a keg and won't lose $20 to $30 of that through waste or theft. You're saving a business 20 percent of their annual beer sales.

ruins pub
Ruins Pub

Whether a bar wants to add a four-tap table or a 40-tap wall, there are expensive start-up costs. But a bar can make that back quickly. Ruins Pub in Kansas City, Mo., opened as a self-service bar in 2015 with 40 taps and the system has already paid for itself, according to owner Scott Kalwai.

"I can't compare it to the cash flow of a normal bar; it's not apples to apples," he said. "Beer sales have been my bread and butter; that's where I make my money. We sell a lot of beer. I doubt I'd be selling anywhere near this amount if it wasn't for this concept."

A bonus is that his customers can also sample beer by the ounce. Ruins Pub features a range of beers from cider to imperial stout and Kalwai said they put one to two new beers on each day so people can try something different each time they're in.

"There's a bar with like 113 beers on tap down the road from us," Kalwai said. "That's great, but it's impossible to try all the beers. Here, if you want to try something, you pour it and you like it or don't. It's immediate feedback to find what you like as fast as you want."