RESTAURANT DEVELOPMENT + DESIGN ONLINE — Trend: DIY Beer Taps — by Thomas Henry Strenk
The craft beer movement placed a big emphasis on draft, and that trend has since carried over to tap wine, craft soft drinks and cocktails. The newest iteration is serve-yourself draft taps. There are a number of permutations, from built-in units that require design integration and running draft lines to tables or a station, or drop-in units that can be easily retrofitted — just like adding a salad bar.
“I have zero stats on this, but anecdotally, I have noticed more self-service taps in my unofficial attempt to survey all the great beer bars in the country,” says Bart Watson, Ph.D., chief economist for the Boulder, Colo.-based Brewers Association.
Self-service taps offer a number of advantages for both operators and guests, says Watson. The self-serve taps reduce the need for direct service, resulting in decreased wait times for patrons and decreased costs for operators. And with an array of handles on offer, consumers can quickly try out a variety of beers, with operators still making a profit even on small samples. Patrons purchase by the ounce, regardless of serving size.
Removing the service element worries some. But operators with DIY taps stress that the human element remains present with staff who are trained to help with suggestions, explain the system and monitor consumption to prevent over imbibing. “A self-serve tap may contain some info about the beer, but they aren’t substitutes for a highly knowledgeable server/bartender,” says Watson. Here’s a look at how three operators are tapping into the trend.
Dog Haus International
“We are big fans of craft beer, and we wanted to take beer as seriously in our stores as we do our food. When we came across this self-serve concept, we instantly thought it was very cool because it’s different and something nobody else is doing in our segment,” says Quasim Riaz, one of the three partners at Dog Haus. Southern California’s Dog Haus is a fast-casual dining concept serving craft hot dogs, sausages and Black Angus burgers on grilled Hawaiian rolls. Guests can choose from signature Haus creations like the Grand Slam (a hot dog with smoked bacon, fried egg, tater tots and maple syrup sriracha) or customize their own from a selection of more than 40 toppings.
Dog Haus operates nine units, and the newest store in Santa Ana, Calif., is the first to offer self-serve beer. Although the beer station was just recently installed in the new store, Riaz is already impressed. “From an operator’s standpoint, the system is amazing because there is almost no wasted beer,” he says, noting an industry average of 18 percent to 20 percent of beer going to waste at standard draft stations. That’s because customers pay for every ounce they tap, which the system meters accurately to a tenth of an ounce. The operator gets 100 percent yield out of every keg. “The consumer wins because they are getting exactly the amount they want,” adds Riaz. “They can sample a few different beer styles before committing to a pint.” Although hard data isn’t in yet, Riaz says he has discovered that customers who serve themselves drink more thanks to sampling — 18 or 20 ounces instead of just a 16-ounce pint.
The system also helped solve a logistics issue. The partners wanted to serve beer at the newest Dog Haus, but the small kitchen didn’t offer enough space to accommodate staff-operated beer taps. The solution was a kiosk in the center of the restaurant at which guests can pour their own. The stand-alone installation is self-contained. A refrigerated unit holds the kegs. On top are the taps and drainage. Mini tablet computers display information on the beer and also control and monitor consumption.
At the cash register, customers can purchase beer in dollar amounts. The cashier checks customers’ IDs and gives each a glass and a card with an RFID sticker. Guests scan their cards at the taps and pour as much or as little beer as they want. Beers are priced by the ounce.
“When you have a line out the door, which our restaurants often do, and a customer wants a beer, the person at the cash register may not be able to describe the beer in the detail it deserves,” says Riaz. Dog Haus manages this by offering tablets that feature descriptions of each beer.
The next Dog Haus, opening later this summer, will sport a similar self-serve system. The partners are also considering a wall-mount unit with more taps. Says Riaz, “When it comes to beer, more options are never a bad thing.”