M2M on tap helps small restaurant chain manage beer inventory

SteadyServ's solution uses the Internet of Things in conjunction with a mobile app to tap more accurate keg pour information.
Written by Heather Clancy, Contributor

How many pints are left in that keg? A new solution from SteadyServ Technologies makes it a whole lot easier for restaurants or bars to figure that out far more accurately. 

SteadyServ - Sensor

The system, called iKeg, uses a sensor ring (pictured) that is placed on the keg in combination with RFID tags and a cloud-based inventory application to help managers measure and analyze their beer supply in real time. That information is uploaded into the cloud, where managers can see how much beer is left, its age and how much safety stock remains.

Typically this process is done manually: staff weigh keg volumes and compare the amount that's left with point-of-sale (POS) receipts to make sure bartenders aren't overpouring. But there really has been no standard way to do this, said Ryan Kellerman, director of beverage hospitality for Scotty's Brewhouse, which was an early beta user of the solution.

"Each person counts differently," he said. 

With iKeg, bars, brewers and restaurants can keep far closer tabs on when they need to reorder from their distributors. "It helps us make the right decisions down to the store level," Kellerman said. "It's important to watch our inventory and make sure that the money is in the bank, not on the shelf." It also helps Scotty's keep tab on whether or not beer is being wasted.

"Beer sold in retail establishments accounts for a $21 billion industry, yet the industry still relies on the inaccurate process of 'shaking the keg' -- the same method used since the inception of the product," said SteadyServ co-founder and CEO Steve Hershberger, when the company introduced its technology in fall 2013. "Not only do bars, restaurants and distributors lose millions of dollars each year on this guesswork, but beer-drinking consumers are frustrated with being denied their favorite beers due to poor inventory management."


So far, SteadyServ, based in Carmel, Ind., has negotiated relationships with brewers and with distributors in its initial target regions. Two of its early partners are Monarch Beverage in Indiana, which is the biggest single-location beer distributor in the United States, and Premium Beverage Distribution in Ohio. 

Managers access information about their inventory through a mobile application that generates reports on beer consumption trends and how they compare with historical data. They can also view previous order information and place new ones.

A full-fledged commercial rollout of the solution is planned for the second quarter of this year, and SteadyServ is also working on technologies for wine bottles and cans.

iKeg carries a $499 setup cost, which includes the cellular linkup and the initial installation. Beyond that, there are two recurring fees. The monthly data reporting subscription ranges from $25 to $50 per month depending on the number of locations covered and the amount of information that's required by each site. There are also depletion fees of $4 per keg when a keg is depleted during the first year of service; this drops to $3 per key after 12 months. 

The installation includes a site survey at the retailer or restaurant, a visit to establish the cellular connection, pairing of the sensors with the kegs, and the initial data upload. SteadyServ estimates total installation time at one to three hours.

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