TAMPA — Draft beer may be the cash cow of the bar industry, but the cumbersome kegs can drive managers and bartenders crazy trying to figure out how much beer is in their system, when to order more, and how much is being wasted.
Scott Granai suggests a solution.
“Stop guessing,” he advises bartenders and managers. “If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it — that’s the old axiom. Kegs aren’t translucent, you can’t see into them. That’s what we give people — the ability to see inside that keg.”
Granai is director of sales for SteadyServ, an emerging Indiana tech company that has developed the iKeg system, an inventory management solution for the beer industry. The system has arrived in Tampa at the Brass Tap in Carrollwood, where managing 60 different beer lines is critical.
“When you’re running a craft beer bar, there are a lot of kegs, and you have to pay particular attention to their levels,” said Brass Tap general manager Alx Thompson.
In a walk-in cooler behind the row of taps at the bar on North Dale Mabry Highway, 60 kegs rest on sensors that monitor beer volume based on weight. The system wirelessly reports data to mobile devices, tablets or desktop computers that can be accessed by employees.
The system displays how much beer remains in a keg as a percentage. It shows when the keg was tapped and can send alerts when a keg is about to run dry.
It beats the heck out of the old-fashioned way, Granai said: “The vernacular is, ‘Go kick the keg.’”
Brass Tap’s Thompson said he’s been there, wrestling with containers that can weigh as much as 160 pounds.
“With something like eight or 10 taps, it’s easier to do the old-fashioned method — pick it up, shake it around. On that scale, it works for you,” he said. “But when you get more than 20 or 30 taps, it doesn’t make sense. It’s physically exhausting. You could be off by a gallon, a gallon and a half, and when you consider how many you have ... this works out much better.”
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Industry insiders say 15 to 20 percent of all draft beer is wasted. That can happen when harried bartenders replace low-running kegs during busy stretches with beer still in them, when lines are over-carbonated and employees pour out the foam or let the taps run to settle down, and, of course, when customers aren’t charged.
Meanwhile, managers might assume there’s plenty of a certain brand in its keg and forgo reordering for a week, only to have the tap sputter.
Granai said industry data shows that if a draft beer customer’s favorite brand isn’t available, his or her spending drops by a third — if they stay in the bar at all.
The iKeg system addresses those issues, along with providing reports on what individual brands are performing best (or worst), measuring marketing efforts in real time and even developing recommendations on the best time to order regional or seasonal beers.
In the craft-brew boom with many tasting rooms running dozens of beer lines, the system can help balance product offerings. “We could compare the lager category to the IPA category, and we can help an establishment understand, hey, do you maybe have too many of these, and not enough of the other?” said Granai.
The Brass Tap pays roughly $5 a month per tap for the system. At the price of most craft beers, SteadyServ says if it saves the establishment one pint of waste per tap per month, the cost is covered. “If we save more, they’re actually in the black for having us,” said Granai. “It’s a system where the return on investment is very strong.”
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SteadyServ has been refining the iKeg system since its founding three years ago and is now in 13 states.
Thompson said he’s making sure the Brass Tap’s 32 locations are aware of the product, and new locations in San Antonio, Texas, and Atlanta have recently opened with the iKeg systems. In addition to his Carrollwood site, there are Brass Taps in Ybor City, Wesley Chapel, Brandon, Oldsmar, Trinity and one in the works in the Tyrone area of St. Petersburg.
“People are waiting to see how it develops,” said Thompson. “Some are waiting to hear from users that are having fun with it, waiting for reviews.”
His bar had been through three different inventory systems in his two years on the job before “we bumped into SteadyServ during their early days, their prototype days,” Thompson said. “They basically fit the need that we were looking for to a T.”