As beer consumers become savvier, bars and restaurants are finding it important to manage their beer inventory more intelligently.
The Score, 5301 Northland Drive NE, recently became the first bar in Michigan to install and use SteadyServ, a management system for draft beer. The system is now used by nine retailers in Michigan, according to SteadyServ Technologies CEO Steve Hershberger.
SteadyServ uses a small scale underneath the beer kegs and reports back via an app to the restaurant’s management. SteadyServ iKeg, as the system is known, measures how many pints are left in kegs, the waste per keg and tap traffic.
For a bar with more than 100 beers on tap, such as The Score, the system has made life easier for bar managers, said Jake O’Rourke, The Score’s bar manager.
“If I had 10 or 12 taps, I’m not sure how much it would help,” O’Rourke said. “But with 128 beers on tap, it shows a lot of problems in the operation. We used to have 28 taps, and even then, I would say, it would have been beneficial because we’re getting a lot of information we wouldn’t otherwise have found.”
O’Rourke said they had been looking for help as inventory control became difficult with such a massive inventory of beer coming through the doors. Taking inventory and purchasing beers for the week, along with wines and liquors, took hours of O’Rourke’s time.
A sales rep for iKeg came in and demonstrated its functions, but O’Rourke figured the expense of the system might not make it feasible. The system came with a 60-day money-back guarantee, so The Score tried it out, and its usefulness immediately made itself known, O’Rourke said.
“When I take inventory, I just look at my phone and I can tell how much beer is left in each keg,” he said. “It’s really helped control our costs.”
O’Rourke said prior to using the system, he had assumptions of what beers were moving well and would be in demand. Now he looks at the system and can see which beers actually are selling at a good clip and how long beers have been on tap. The data can also help O’Rourke better price the various beers.
The system also sends out alerts when kegs are nearing depletion so a tap doesn’t go unfilled for long.
“It gives me a lot of reports, and I can look at them and pinpoint issues within the draft list,” he said. “Sometimes I thought a certain beer was doing really well, so I’d order more. Now I can see if the beer actually is doing well or slowly moving.”
O’Rourke said SteadyServ iKeg system also allows him to give distributors and breweries better feedback on their beer.
“It’s so easy to track which beers and styles are doing well,” he said. “I can tell a distributor what’s working and what’s not. Some national breweries might not work in this market because it’s so hyper-local. So I can tell the distributor if a beer like Sierra Nevada Pale Ale isn’t moving well.”
SteadyServ’s Hershberger said more retailers are finding such beer management systems beneficial, and his company’s system can be found at more than 70 retailers in 13 states. SteadyServ is based in Carmel, Indiana.
"A key component to our growth is recognizing and understanding that our customers are busy running their establishments. They have a lot of things preoccupying them,” Hershberger said. “We like to take some of the worry and guesswork out of it by quantifying their beer supply and giving them the numbers they need to make inventory management and selling beer easier.
“But more than that, we care about each of our customers and want to be a partner in their success because we are beer people who genuinely love this industry. We've known that it's time to shake up the status quo surrounding a lack of data in the industry for a while, and we really believe the key to this change will be embracing those metrics."
Just as managing the inventory of beers has improved, so too has the management of beer care. O’Rourke said The Score now cleans its draft lines every week to prevent off flavors from developing in beers.
“With the explosion of the craft beer movement, consumers are becoming so much more educated in what they’re drinking,” he said. “They know when beers aren’t right. Before, bars could get away with a lot, but now we need to give customers what they’re expecting.”