- Associated Press - Friday, November 7, 2014

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. (AP) - When it comes to lost keg revenue, bar owners have two options: Cry in your beer, or do something proactive about it.

Yogi’s Grill & Bar is choosing the latter.

SteadyServ, a software-service keg inventory system, is emerging as an investment-maximizing option for central Indiana brewpubs. SteadyServ Vice President Stepfan Jefferies says 15 percent to 20 percent of every typical keg delivered to retailers ends up as waste - with good beer that should be going to paying customers at the bar. And Jefferies says his company’s software and hardware equipment aim to help brewmeisters get every last dollar - and bubbly sip - out of their chrome taps onto a customer’s palate.

“We’re looking at a massive industry that’s really flying by the seat of its pants,” Jefferies told The Herald-Times (https://bit.ly/1x9bLq9 ) of the craft beer boom. “Our technology eliminates a great deal of that. It all begins with what you see in the cooler.”

Essentially, kegs within the SmartServ system are docked on special round scales that monitor beer volume based on weight. The system then wirelessly reports data for each to restaurant inventory supervisors. Employees can monitor when the beer was tapped and other vital information such as when the keg’s contents might run dry and how patterns such as weather forecasts might impact future sales.

The system is much more accurate than picking up a keg and guessing how much might remain - the traditional method. It also helps identify the areas of waste, including over-carbonation of kegs, bad lines or even poor pouring technique.

Jefferies, a Guinness stout loyalist himself, says his product has a longstanding partnership with the Scotty’s Brewhouse chain and is operating from border-to-border in Indiana, as well as at locations in Cincinnati and Dayton, Ohio; and Grand Rapids, Michigan. SteadyServ is also expected to launch at Bloomington’s Crazy Horse Food and Drink Emporium within the next few weeks, Jefferies said, as well as B-Town’s Scotty’s venue.

Yogi’s owner, Chris Karl, a pale ale enthusiast and certified beer cicerone himself, says he’s been around the brewing world for so long that he can approximate a keg’s volume just by lifting each steel container - which may weigh up to 160 pounds at full capacity. But with 55 taps on hand at any time, the guess-and-check process of keg monitoring can be cumbersome, even scattershot.

All Karl has to do now with SteadyServ is place each incoming keg on a circular scale that comes with the system, tag it for data monitoring and play the waiting game one pour at a time. SteadyServ can accurately calculate the amount of beer remaining on tap down to a single pitcher, Jefferies said.

When each beer tap ultimately runs dry, a Yogi’s employee can disconnect the keg’s hardware within 5 to 10 seconds, and a replacement keg will soon have its time to shine.

Karl can check the pour reports on his smartphone, then evaluate his next step: which kegs to order, which beer types are in high demand and which ones he knows will be fine to wait until the next purchasing period. With just a few weeks of SteadyServ utilization in his bar, though, Karl is being cautious with his inventory strategies for a few more months. New kegs arrive in the bar every few days, sometimes right before a monthly report summary, so he waits to analyze the broader inventory ebb-and-flow ahead of him.

“I just look at it every time the monthly reports come in,” Karl said. “I haven’t seen anything dramatic, but I’m changing the beer menu twice a week.”

The most appealing upside to SteadyServ, Karl said, is the significantly lower overhead costs. He says other beer inventory system companies have approached him with a full product - and a $15,000 to $20,000 upfront cost - but Karl said SteadyServ is the more affordable option for bar owners like him, who change large quantities of kegs on a daily basis.

He paid $500 to get SteadyServ’s antennas installed. All the other equipment is provided free of charge, and it’s a $4-per-keg service fee back to SteadyServ after that.

“If you sell one beer per keg, you break even,” Karl said. “If you don’t like it, you’re out $500 - but that’s nothing compared to $15,000 systems.”

Jefferies said that most SteadyServ clients, located anywhere from Raleigh, North Carolina, to San Francisco, are reporting a favorable return on their investment, with $10 in recouped beer revenue for each $1 spent on his equipment.

“In our world, traditionally, it’s been looked at as part of the industry, as something that has to be accepted,” Jefferies said. “Our predominant strategy for hundreds of years has been guessing. … But a lot of people are calling this ‘smart beer.’ It’s an old-school, good ol-‘ boy and gal industry. But we’re having a lot of success, and it’s accelerating every week.”

“We’re all for one, and one for all right now.”


Information from: The Herald Times, https://www.heraldtimesonline.com

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