If you love beer and Data Analytics – and who doesn’t? – you may be excited to learn that the two pair up together in a system for bars and restaurants. These retail establishments use it to help them better understand and manage their on-tap inventory and improve their sales.
Twenty billion dollars’ worth of draft beer is sold every year in the U.S. The company thinks there’s an opportunity for outlets from local pubs to enterprise-owned restaurant chains to do even better – and to waste less product in the process, too.
The SteadyServ iKeg solution involves the company’s own Cloud database of virtually every beer ever brewed in the world, as well as the Internet of Things and RFID technology. The SteadyServ system is composed of SmartScale devices; each of these IoT devices sits in the cooler underneath each keg on tap, next to the beer line affiliated with that tap. Each SmartScale is numbered to coordinate with the beer line that it’s paired up with. Each beer line gets its own RFID identification tag that itself is paired up with a SmartScale as soon as that device is introduced to the system. Once done, the SmartScale knows, for instance, that it is Scale Number One and that it is affiliated with Tap Line Number One.
Once a new keg is put on the system for the first time, the SmartScale sensors recognize its weight. Then, in combination with the company’s database, the system does the initial work of determining what type of beer it believes is in the keg. It does this based on matching the keg weight information to its database of beer facts that includes various brands’ specific keg gravity and vessel sizes. Each beer keg, says SteadyServe CEO Steve Hershberger, has a specific gravity, and the system uses Machine Learning to narrow things down from there to one or two potential beer brands with a high degree of likelihood. The SteadyServe comprehensive beer database, in fact, has information for 62,000 unique beer SKUs, with 12 to 60 pieces of Metadata attached to each, providing a real time database of draft beer as well as on-premise retail activity.
After this first step is taken, “we push an alert to the establishment that it put a new keg on Tap Line 1 and ask for confirmation of beer type,” he says. Now the system knows that the keg affiliated with Tap Line Number One is Boston Beer Rebel IPA, for instance. That matters because the knowledge will help inform key business decisions for the restaurant or bar.
The sensor makes it possible to pinpoint-measure how much beer is left in a keg as drink orders are placed and filled, and matches that to how many pours that translates to. When it gets to the point where the keg is close to going empty, the system sends an alert to bar or restaurant managers and owners via a mobile device app. Or employees can scan the RFID tags directly for real-time updates.
On a busy night, when multiple alerts are issued for multiple kegs, staff members will have exact insight into how many pints are left in each so that they can send staff members out to change kegs starting with the one that has the least amount of beer left just before it’s drained. “If it goes all way empty that introduces air into the line, which means you have to re-prime the pump,” Hershberger explains.
Not only does that take time but it potentially risks a sale of a particular product. “If you blow a keg and tell the patron it will take 10 minutes because their beer choice isn’t available, the patron drinks one-third less,” says Hershberger, whose career has spanned the gamut from performance and Data Analytics to co-founding production craft brewery Flat 12 Bierwerks.