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When it comes to bar technology, the future is now. The recent rise of the Internet of Things (IoT) has put powerful digital tools within reach of every bar owner.

Overwhelmed by all your tech options? We teamed up with Bar-i Liquid Accounting for a webinar on July 25th that covered the top 5 types of bar technology you should know about. From cloud-based POS systems to in-venue digital signage, learn how to raise the bar on tech today.

3 Reasons Why Now is the Time to Update Your Bar Technology

We get it. You’re insanely busy, and finding time to bring in new tech does require a little effort. After all, you’ll need to test it, train your team, and then troubleshoot along the way. But these 3 reasons should convince you that it’s time well spent:

  • Cost Savings Bar technology can automate many tasks while improving consistency and quality. It’s also an opportunity to reduce or even eliminate human error, especially when it comes to inventory tools.
  • Customers Want It Toast POS found that 73% of restaurant customers believe that tech improves their restaurant visit.
  • Stand Out From Competitors The National Restaurant Association even discovered that 35% of patrons seek out bars and restaurants that are serving up the latest tech.

Now, here is the shortlist of the best types of bar technology you should consider…

1) Electronic POS System or “ePOS” Bar Technology

Within the last few years, ePOS bar technology offers an increased amount of powerful features – at a decreased price. How is that possible? You can thank “the cloud.”

Instead of spending thousands on expensive on-premises servers and setup, most ePOS systems store data on a secure, remote server – yes, that’s the cloud. You’ll likely pay one upfront fee and then an ongoing monthly subscription that ranges between $50-$300 depending on how many locations you manage and ePOS provider.

The other benefit of many cloud-based ePOS systems is that when new features are available, you simply download a quick update and you’re ready to go. You won’t need to purchase all new hardware and software.

Many of the top 10 ePOS bar technology providers are taking things a step further with mobile, handheld devices. That means your bartenders can use a touchscreen tablet to take orders, and even process payments – without being at the main POS station. The ability for these

If you’re looking for ePOS bar technology that allows you to accept online orders or track loyalty points, you’ll be happy to know that the best ePOS providers offer integrations with popular platforms like DoorDash, GrubHub, UpServe, and dozens more. By integrating these platforms with your ePOS, you allow data to travel between platforms which can unlock valuable analytics. Other popular integrations include inventory tools like Bar-I, scheduling services like Shedwool, and even accounting dashboards like R365.

2) Digital Inventory Bar Technology

Ready for an alarming statistic? In today’s bar biz, 15-20% shrinkage is the norm. And stolen, spoiled, untracked or overpoured inventory can cost you up to 3% of your bar sales every year.

Here’s an example: Let’s say your gross bar sales are $50,000 per month. Over the course of a year you’d make $600,000 if you had proper inventory bar technology in place. However, without the right systems in place, you could lose 3% each year – or in this example…$18,000!

Now that you know the bottom-line impact of bar technology for inventory, the next step is choosing the right system. Here are your options:

  • In-house tools: Excel or Google Docs (you download a template or create your own)
  • DIY platforms: Bevspot, Partender, Bevager (you input inventory data into these systems via PC and even mobile devices)
  • Full-service platforms: Bevinco/Sculpture Hospitality (these companies will come in and take inventory for you)
  • Hybrid: Bar-I (Bar-i is the only type of inventory bar technology that offers flexibility…utilize one of their DIY tools or bring in one of their experts for full-service inventory, or even just an occasional audit)
  • Real-time: Berg, BarVision
  • Specialized: US Beer Savers, SteadyServ, iPourit

As you narrow down the list of bar technology providers for inventory, factor in these features before ultimately selecting your tool of choice:

  • Counting speed (shelf to sheet, organization)
  • Cost (for what level of inventory?)
  • Product mix (e.g. tap room versus wine bar)
  • Measurement system (e.g. real time, tenthing, weighing, or a mix of them)
  • Is there support from the inventory tool provider? In-person? Over the phone…over a chat app?

3) On-Demand/Digital Entertainment

Now that we’ve covered two ways that bar technology can improve back-of-the-house operations, let’s shift gears to the front of the house – and your customer experience.

Today, customer experience is everything. A Walker Study found that by 2020, customer experience will overtake price and product as the key brand value that guests want.

So, what exactly IS customer experience? Yes, it involves your food and drinks, but it goes beyond that. It’s how your staff treats customers – both in-person and online. It’s the “human” side of your business, and it involves customer emotions. Somewhat paradoxically, bar technology can actually enhance the personal connection between you and your guests (more on that shortly…).

What today’s bar and restaurant guests REALLY want in their customer experience is…fun.

A Facebook Loyalty study of 14,000 people found that the #1 way a business can drive loyalty is through “quality” – followed by “fun.”

They want a great time. And yes, they want to show it off on social media, giving you valuable exposure.

Hosting live events is a great way to add fun into your customer experience, but you can’t host a live event all day, every day. For the best ROI, seek out ways to put fun on autopilot – integrate it into your business model.

Your goal is to add value through entertainment to every guest’s visit.

That’s where bar technology comes into play with these 3 examples. What’s also interesting is that technology gives your patrons even more options for controlling and customizing their experience with you.

TouchTunes: Sounds Like a Great Time

  • Kiosk-like “jukebox” lets customers select the music through their smartphone
  • Additional features include a photobooth
  • Customer-facing bar technology lets customers indulge in on-demand karaoke
  • Also, you can use their pre-programmed playlists to create an upbeat atmosphere

TV Programming: Time to Change the Channel?

  • Quick reminder: It’s illegal to Show Netflix, HBO, Showtime, Hulu, etc.
  • Simple trick: let customers know they can request to change channels!
  • Bar/Restaurant TV: some companies – Chive TV, cable companies – create entertaining content just for hospitality venues
  • Interactive TV: The Buzztime network puts trivia on your bar TVs, customers can play along on tablets or phones

Handheld Gaming: Fun Within Reach

  • Large arcade games are big, bulky, and out of place in the modern bar and restaurant world (unless your entire concept built around retro gaming)
  • Instead, 2,600+ bars and restaurants give guests handheld tablets to play trivia and arcade games. It’s proof that bar technology is literally changing the game on fun!
  • Tabletop games can turn “wait time into play time” so customer satisfaction increases, even if you’re slammed and orders are taking a while

4) In-Venue Bar Technology: Digital Menus and Signage

In case you haven’t noticed, we’re in the midst of a digital shift. More bars and restaurants are going paperless and using their own TVs, screens, and even handheld tablets to promote their menus, events, and more. Check out these 3 examples of popular in-venue bar technology

  • A bar with a long tap list uses a large digital screen behind the bar – instead of a chalkboard
  • A restaurant promotes events and drink specials using their own TVs – instead of posters and table tents
  • A pub offers patrons handheld touchscreen tablets – instead of paper menus

There are many reasons for this shift towards paperless bar technology. First, a Nielson study found sales of items promoted on digital signage increased by 30%. Modern Restaurant Management even reported that touchscreen ordering via menu bar technology boosts check averages by up to 20-30%. Many digital tablet menus have automatic prompts, suggesting upsells as patrons explore the menu

Another reason for the rise in digital menu bar technology? Today’s customers are increasingly eco-conscious so reducing paper usage shows them you’re going green. As an added bonus, switching to paperless options will save you serious cash on printing costs.

How to Use Digital Signage

  • Pro Tip: Seek out software that works with your existing TVs/screens, and includes free templates
  • Set up a customer/employee of the month feature
  • Use digital signage to drive viewers to your website, loyalty program, social media, review sites, etc.
  • Resell ad space on your TVs to add an extra revenue stream!
  • Check out these 7 other ways that bars and restaurants are unlocking the power of this bar technology!

5) Bar Technology on the Horizon

Last but not least, let’s explore the bar technology that’s just starting to take off. Keep watch on these emerging types of tech to stay ahead of the competition and help your bar stand out!

Augmented Reality (AR)

Forbes predicts that AR tech will soon be used to alert bar staff when a patron’s drink is empty and needs a refill. AR Menus already here! The New York-based Bareburger chain lets guests use Snapchat to create their “dream burger” which appears as 3D image on the table in front of them

Rideshare Apps 2.0

It’s no secret that rideshare apps like Uber and Lyft are popular nationwide. The next generation of rideshare apps and tools are incorporating incentives to drive customers into specific businesses. For example, Lyft Events and Uber Voucher programs allow businesses to give out discounts and free rides to patrons. Armed with this bar technology, a bar owner might give away $5 vouchers to encourage customers to come in on a slow night. Another example of this rideshare bar technology is the Freebird app. Riders can rack up points for rides they take to participating venues, and then redeem those points for free meals, drinks, and more.

The Robots are Coming!

Let’s get one thing clear, these robots are not meant to replace bartenders. Instead, this bar technology is designed to add novelty, fun, and “Instagramability” for your customers. Meet Bbot, an Instagram-worthy device that delivers drinks to the table. Or, discover Barsys 2.0 and Makr Shakr which act like a Keurig machine to whip up drinks on demand.

Bar technology continues to evolve at a rapid pace. Your goal is to stay ahead of the curve, so you can bring a new level of efficiency in your back-of-the-house operations – and treat guests to an enhanced customer experience.