• Self-serve, touch-free and Keurig-like automation are all some of the latest ways that drinks, from beer, wine and cocktails to sodas and teas, are being poured at restaurants and bars.
  • We tapped some experts in the tech and restaurant fields to talk about the latest innovations in beverage dispensing.

Related: Milwaukee-style pizza offers great options for pizza/beer pairings

By Tracy Morin

Thanks to a range of influences—technological advances, restaurant employee shortages and the shakeup of COVID-19, among others—beverage dispensing has come a long way in recent years. Self-serve, touch-free and Keurig-like automation are all some of the latest ways that drinks, from beer, wine and cocktails to sodas and teas, are being poured at restaurants, bars and even high-volume locations like sports stadiums. To get a better view of the latest, we tapped (pun intended) some experts in the tech and restaurant fields to share their favorite innovations in beverage dispensing.

Touchless Taps
Brian Nagele
Former restaurant owner/CEO of Restaurant Clicks
Philadelphia, PA

Contactless dispensers for beverages are becoming more and more popular in restaurants. They provide a cleaner, faster way of customers getting the beverage without having to touch anything or wait in line. There are two types of contactless beverage dispensers: The first type is the one that uses radio frequency identification (RFID) technology. These dispensers are usually installed at the table and use a card reader to identify who is drinking from it. The second type is one that uses near-field communication (NFC) technology. These dispensers are usually installed on the counter and use a smartphone to identify who is drinking from it. Contactless beverage dispensers have a number of benefits: They help restaurants save money, and they make ordering easier for customers by reducing wait times.

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Lydia Martin
Founder, Liquor Laboratory
Redmond, WA

Advanced technology offers a huge advantage to restaurant and bar owners alike. I’m impressed with TapWise Smart Dispensing Solutions from Sestra Systems. With this new touchless solution for beverage dispensing, you have full control of your beverage program. The advanced beverage dispenser was inspired by the advent of COVID-19 and is intended to increase the point-of-service experience in restaurants and bars, helping to create distance between servers and guests. The dispenser offers precision pouring through touchless taps or push-to-pour control and even has a Smart FOB to prevent foam from filling the glass, which leads to loss of product. You can see and control each tap from your phone or laptop and even set automatic schedules to open or close service. It also has a wide range of payment options through Sestra’s IoT-connected network and a real-time connectivity status for each tap.
Self-Pour Solutions

Matt Mongoven
Co-Founder/CEO, Smokin’ Oak Wood-Fired Pizza and Taproom
St. Petersburg, FL

Smokin’ Oak Wood-Fired Pizza developed a self-pour taproom model to complement its offering of wood-fired pizzas, sandwiches, starters and desserts. When a guest comes into the restaurant, the cashier starts a tab for them, scans their driver’s license, and provides them with an RFID-enabled wristband. The guest then goes to the self-pour taproom wall, which can have 20 to 50 taps, depending on the size of the location, that offer craft beer, domestic beer, ciders, prosecco, wines and, in some locations, mixed cocktails. The guest selects their drink, holds their wristband to the screen, and, when the light turns green, they are able to pour their own drink. They can pour as little as one ounce if they’re looking for just a taste, or they can pour a full drink. The self-pour system does have a cut-off point—calibrated for the ABV of each drink the guest pours—and the guest can have their wristband reactivated by a taproom attendant to continue to pour.

Smokin’ Oak Wood Fired Pizza

Self-pour technology is interesting to us for several reasons:

1. Guests love the idea of self-pouring. They can “study” a drink before they pour. Each screen has a description of the drink, its price per ounce, the ABV, where the brewer is from, etc. Instead of committing to a full pint of beer, for example, they can pour an ounce to make sure they like it—and, if not, move on to something else. There’s no waiting behind other people at a bar or waiting for a bartender.

2. High margins. Beer, wine and cocktails are a high-margin product and do not cannibalize the sale of any other product in our restaurants. It’s truly incremental revenue to the franchise owner, increasing the average ticket per guest and the total revenue per restaurant location.

3. Low labor model. Because it’s self-pour, the labor dollars associated with the revenue generated from the taproom wall is very low. Typically, on busy Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights, there’s one taproom attendant. During the rest of the week, managers and other team members are able to help guests with any questions they may have on the taproom wall.

Edward Eugen
Co-Founder/Tech and Gadget Reviewer, 10Beasts
Ineu, Romania

As technology develops, many restaurants are starting to use self-pour beverage technologies to save time for the customer and avoid inconvenience. Customers can easily operate the machine through their smartphone, with a customizable app that’s designed to help customers—the beverage self-pour dispenser technology connects with the app. It’s a simple setup for self-pour technology: Customers use a credit card or online payment method to pay the bill, and they can scan QR codes through the app. They simply select the drink of their choice and proceed with the payment method, then activate self-serve taps and start pouring right from the app. This method reduces the cost of staffing and provides service efficiency.


Capsule Cocktails

Ryan Close
Founder/CEO, Bartesian
Chicago, IL

Consumer demand for cocktails is at an all-time high, yet venues have been challenged by the labor, ingredients and time required to deliver consistent premium cocktails. So we created the Bartesian Professional, an intelligent cocktail maker. It uses capsules that contain the ingredients for on-demand, lounge-quality drinks, giving the benefits of a fully-stocked bar in one sleek and compact machine. It can make consistent, delicious cocktails for large groups without the wait or need for numerous ingredients and extensive cleanup.

Bartesian Professional is already available at national and major league sports stadiums nationwide, including Fenway Park and Wrigley Field, and is now pouring drinks at the push of a button in restaurants, hotels, bars and other venues. The machine offers premium cocktails on demand with the customer’s choice of spirits at customizable strengths. More than 40 unique cocktails are available, with new recipes like Lemon Drop, Amaretto Sour and Blackberry Margarita debuting regularly. Each fully recyclable Bartesian cocktail capsule is packed with high-quality bitters, liqueurs, juices and other ingredients needed to make the perfect cocktail in seconds. The Bartesian Professional unit also features a tamper-proof locking system and commercial certifications.

Tracy Morin is PMQ’s senior copy editor and editor of PizzaVegan.com.