One of the guiding philosophies behind Bar-i’s service is to leverage the most advanced technology available to provide more effective results for our clients. As a result, we have a deep appreciation for other companies that are trying to revolutionize the bar industry with innovative technology. One of these companies is iPourIt.
iPourIt has developed self-pouring beer and wine dispensing systems, making it possible for bar patrons to serve themselves. The company is still relatively new – they’re only 5 years old – but they’re already starting to make their mark in the bar industry. Their technology has been adopted by more than 50 bars nationwide, their dispensing systems have poured over 53 million ounces of beer, and more than 500,000 bar patrons have already taken part in this new type of bar experience.
Our co-owner, Jamie Edwards, recently visited a bar in Casper, Wyoming that uses the iPourIt self-serve beer dispensing system. He was impressed by many aspects of the system and the service it provides. We’ve decided to review this technology in order to provide bar owners with greater insight into this exciting new technology.
Is this technology right for your bar? Unfortunately, there’s no straightforward answer to this question. Ultimately, it will depend on a variety of factors including your bar’s concept, your target demographic and your willingness to adopt new technology in order to provide your customers with a unique experience.
How Does iPourIt Work?
All of the iPourIt technology is programmable, enabling you to make any adjustments necessary to meet the unique needs of your bar. The system contains a series of self-pouring beer (or wine) taps that are activated by a wristband that each customer receives when they arrive at the bar.
Customers must show their ID to receive a wristband. At this time, a beer guru is available to talk with customers in order to explain how the iPourIt system works and discuss the different beers on tap.
The default programming for iPourIt systems allows customers to receive 32 ounces of beer before being temporarily cut off. However, you have the ability to change this cut-off limit if you want. Every jurisdiction has different laws regarding these cut-off limits, and you’ll need to abide by your local laws when setting your limits. But based on your local laws, you can potentially adjust the limit higher than 32 ounces, and you can always adjust the limit lower than 32 ounces if you prefer.
Once a customer has reached their 32 ounce limit, they will need to check in with the beer guru. This ensures that people are properly communicated with when the limit is reached to make sure that no one is being overserved. If the beer guru feels that you haven’t been overserved, he’ll enable your wristband to dispense another 32 ounces of beer.
Customers pay for all of the beer they drink when they’re ready to leave. Beers are charged by the ounce, and each beer has a different price per ounce.
Setting Up an iPourIt System at Your Bar
The exact price of an iPourIt system depends on the configuration. Systems range between $1100 and $1600 per tap, and the average cost per tap is approximately $1350. You have a significant amount of flexibility regarding the number of taps you install. You can start with a moderately-sized 10-tap system or choose to install upwards of 40 or more taps. The right option for you will obviously depend on the unique specifics of your bar as well as the amount of capital you have to invest in the technology.
In addition to the self-pouring tap dispensers, you’ll also need to purchase the other parts to the system, which include the check-in station where the beer guru will provide customers with their wristbands.
It is possible to retrofit an existing draft beer cooler with an iPourIt system, so this can potentially save you some money if you already have a cooler that that can be used for this service. In most instances additional components will need to be added to transform your existing draft beer system into a self-serve system, but you can usually use your current beer cooler if you prefer.
Benefits of the iPourIt System
The two primary benefits to using the iPourIt system strike a chord with us here at Bar-i:
- Increases top line revenues and bottom line profits
- Provides lots of actionable data that will help you grow your business
The typical yield on a keg of beer is 76%, but the keg yield when you use the iPourIt system is approximately 99%. This means you’re getting almost 25% more beer out of each keg, which will significantly boost your profits.
The average iPourIt user is a 32 year old male who goes to the beer wall 5.5 times per visit and pours 4.7 ounces per trip to the wall. This equates to a little over a pint and a half of beer. However, this average user is also spending $14.35 on beer during his visit, which is significantly more money than most bars receive for a pint and a half of beer. Therefore, the system is also increasing the revenue per beer coming into the bar.
In addition, data for all of these drinkers is logged into the system and collected by iPourIt. Each bar then receives the data collected on all of their customers. This will give you detailed information about your customers, the beers they drink and the price points at which they’re willing to purchase beer. This will help you formulate an effective business strategy that is based on hard data.
iPourIt can also leverage data from similar types of establishments that use their system to give you a point of comparison. This additional competitor data can be very helpful in setting your pricing strategy.
Other benefits of using the iPourIt system at your bar include:
- Ideally suited to accommodate the needs of craft beer drinkers – Craft beer drinkers often like to sample a wide variety of high end beers, but they’re often hesitant to purchase a full pint due to the price. With the iPourIt system, craft beer aficionados have a greater incentive to taste these high end beers since they’re being sold by the ounce and therefore customers don’t have to commit to a full drink.
Since the price for an ounce or two of a high end beer is relatively reasonable, your customers won’t experience the same sticker shock as when they see the price for a full pint. This allows you to gain a higher gross margin on these products, and it’s a big reason the average customer is spending significantly more on a pint and a half of beer than typically occurs when beer is sold by the pint.
- Tremendous selection – Your iPourIt system can have as many as 40 beers available, providing your craft beer drinkers with a tremendous variety of beers to sample.
- Buzz factor – The iPourIt system is still relatively new, and there’s a tremendous buzz about it. Many customers have heard about it, but still haven’t tried it. When Jamie found the bar in Casper, he was extremely excited. He wanted to use it and see what the system is all about. It will be interesting to see whether this buzz remains once more people become exposed to the iPourIt system and the novelty factor wears off.
- No waiting to order a round of beer – If people at your table are drinking at different paces, you might be waiting for your friends to get done with their beer so that your server will notice your table is ready for another round. Since the iPourIt system is self-serve, you can just walk up to the beer wall and pour your next drink whenever you’re ready for one.
- You can also read about each beer on a digital menu screen – The iPourIt system provides a lot of information on each beer, including the cost per ounce, ABV and IBUs for each beer. This is a lot more information than most bartenders typically know about each beer carried. This is very appealing to craft beer drinkers who are interested in learning more about each of the products they taste.
Drawbacks of iPourIt
No product is perfect and while there are many strengths associated with this system, there are also a few drawbacks. These include:
- You’re constantly leaving your seat to get beer – This is a self-service system that sells beer by the ounce. Most customers pour significantly less than a full pint with every trip to the beer wall. This means you’re constantly getting up from your table to refill your glass. Some customers won’t care about this at all, but others may find it to be a bit of a nuisance.
- Eliminates the culture of buying rounds – It’s virtually impossible to buy a round of beer for your friends since everyone is being charged on their own bracelet. This forces your bar to lose one of the most social aspects of drinking.
- Not ideally suited to all bar concepts – A self-service system can definitely work well in places such as dive bars, fast-casual establishments and bars that cater to a craft beer crowd, but it probably won’t be a viable option in higher end establishments. A primary selling point at high end bars is having a server come to your table to bring you drinks, and the self-service concept takes away this important part of the atmosphere cultivated at these high end establishments.
- Payment system seemed a bit clunky – Jamie had to wait in line to pay for his drinks. It seemed to him that there should’ve been a more effective payment system for this type of automation technology.
Instead of having a person take payment, it seems like there should be a way to set up a machine that will let you insert one (or more) bracelets and pay with a card right at the machine. Perhaps that kind of upgrade will eventually come as the iPourIt system continues to get refined.
iPourIt Provides an Interesting Concept that Can Differentiate Your Bar
Restaurants are adopting new technology at increasing rates, and that trend doesn’t seem like it will change anytime soon. iPourIt is one of the latest examples of this technology boom, and it definitely provides your bar with a unique concept that will help you differentiate yourself from your competitors. If you would like to be on the forefront of bar technology and provide your customers with this type of unique experience, then iPourIt may be an excellent option to consider.
However, it seems unlikely that the iPourIt system will ever gain enough widespread usage to place a bartender’s job prospects in jeopardy. People are engrained with the human element of service, and many customers enjoy the experience of talking to their bartender throughout the night, especially during times when business is slow.
In some ways, this may be a potential limiting factor to the adoption of iPourIt systems. While many bars may eventually start using it, there will always be places that want to maintain the old school feel of having a bartender who pours the drinks for their customers. Therefore, while iPourIt is a very cool concept, it must be the right fit based on the concept of your bar.
If you’d like to learn more about how Bar-i’s inventory technology can help you streamline your bar’s operations and maximize profits, please contact us today to schedule a free consultation. We serve bars nationwide from our offices in Denver, Colorado.