Fans of the Spike TV show, Bar Rescue, are more than aware of the challenges of being a barkeep in a highly competitive market. Issues that include employees pilfering from the till and drinking while on duty are one thing, but over pouring and giving away free drinks are a recipe for disaster—not to mention bankruptcy—for bar owners charged with daily multitasking.
Inventory control systems are crucial to a bar’s success and have been in place for decades. Moving from a pen and paper operation, such processes evolved into the 20th century with tracking spreadsheets and early use of RFID technology. Prime for disruption, though, the hospitality industry has been the focus of IoT investments that offer tighter control over bar inventory management, with some options replicating Amazon’s Dash button. Using web-based technology, the Dash button facilitates replenishment when stocks reach a predetermined level by directly contacting the supplier.
Palo Alto-based Nectar is in the development phase of its product which automates Amazon’s Dash button by automatically reordering spirits when their volume reaches a set threshold. Armed with $4.55 million of fresh financing, Nectar hopes to build a solution which can eventually create a cache of data that can be used for predictive analysis to understand patterns which can help in business development. For example, knowing seasonality trends of various cocktails can allow pre-ordering in bulk which can save a bar owner considerable money. In addition, such advanced inventory control systems can track the habits of individual bartenders by giving them individual IDs that tie to the business’ Point of Sale system. That way, such costly behavior over pouring or an abundance of free drinks can be spotted and remedied.
In addition to Nectar, Bar Fly from a company called Local Libations offers a smart-device-based keg monitoring system. Using geotags attached to the individual kegs, a smartphone app or computer can track the beer volume and provide automatic reordering. Much like Nectar, Bar Fly can compile data used for predictive analysis related such areas as customer drinking patterns and busiest hours for staffing purposes.
Following the success of single-server coffee brewer, Keurig, innovators in the IoT space are racing to take the lead in the home bar market. The current state of the home mixology world consists of a mix of startups, with products approaching the market via crowd funding, and those with “cocktail robots” available at retail. These auto-bartenders come in two flavors—closed loop systems which require the consumer to buy premixed drink pods from the device manufacturer and open-loop systems which allow the home drink master to use his own booze and mixers. In both cases, these countertop marvels connect to a smart device via Wi-Fi and allow the user to select from a myriad of various cocktail choices. The machine, such as Burlingame, Calif.,-based Bernooli, then precisely measures the libations to build the perfect Martini, Bloody Mary, Rob Roy or something more exotic, like a Blue Lagoon or Bahama Mama.
Bernooli uses a smart spout system which, when paired with its proprietary app, uses Bluetooth to light up the bottles required for a given adult beverage. The spout allows precise pouring amounts are for the home user. Others in the race to become the Keurig of the cocktail set include Somabar, Monsieur, and Bartesian.
With so many options in the development pipeline, clearly IoT and the “robot cocktail” space is headed in some interesting directions. Additional market contenders include Picobrew, which uses smart technology to turn consumers into home beer brewmasters. With another twist to attract the wine connoisseur, D-Vine offers mini tubes of wine correctly cooled and aerated for proper serving.