There are several types of sophisticated liquor control systems on the market. They can be broken down into the following categories:
- Inventory Control Systems
- Wireless Control Systems
- A. RFID Wireless "Free Pour" Control Systems
- B. RFID Wireless "Portion" Control Systems
- Remote Liquor Dispensing Systems
- Bottle Pouring Liquor Control Systems
1. Inventory control systems require managers weigh every partial liquor bottle in the bar in order to calculate how much liquor was depleted. These systems use software that will calculate pour cost percentages so liquor profitability can be monitored. Managers scan the barcode on liquor bottle labels to identify the brand and then weigh the bottle to capture that brand's inventory. Full bottles and cases can be entered into the keypad on the reader. Inventory data is downloaded from the reader to a software program on the computer that will generate multiple inventory reports.
- PROS: Managers can keep periodic tabs on their liquor inventories. Reports help managers determine liquor cost percentages and maintain desired stock levels.
- CONS: Because inventorying every bottle is extremely time consuming, full inventories are typically performed weekly rather than daily.Inventory controls inform management about losses but do not identify specifically when and where losses occurred.
This method does nothing to prevent bartenders from overpouring liquor shots which will drive liquor cost percentages higher and profits lower.
2A. Wireless "free pour" spouts work with time and gravity. There are no physical devices measuring the liquor served. These systems track how many seconds each pourer was inverted which corresponds to the amount of liquor served in the glass. Data from the pourers is transmitted to a receiver that captures the information. The pouring information is downloaded into a software program that generates pouring reports.
- PROS: The system tracks each shot served in real-time telling you if a drink was poured properly or over-poured.
- CONS: The angle the bottle is tilted, the amount of liquor left in the bottle, the speed the bottle is inverted and the viscosity of the liquor will all create different amounts of liquor to be served in the same amount of time. These unavoidable inaccuracies skew the pouring figures 10 to 20% from the actual amount poured. If the pouring data is not accurate, managers cannot hold bartenders accountable for variances between the amount of liquor poured and the amount sold.
This system does not stop bartenders from over-pouring shots.
Expensive pourers (over $100 each) need to be replaced when their internal battery runs down.
2B. Wireless "portion control" systems have been on the market since the late nineties by several manufacturers. The concept is wonderful since predetermined portion sizes can be chosen by the bartender rather than liquor portions being free-poured by the bartender. Unfortunately, every one of the manufacturers of this system have either stopped selling their wireless portion control system or have disappeared after 1 or 2 years.
- PROS: The portion aspect of the pourers reduces the shot size inaccuracies of the free pour system. Pouring data collected is more reliable and can be compared to a bartender's liquor sales to alert management to unregistered sales.
- CONS: Wireless pourers are powered by small batteries that deliver very limited power to activate the valve that controls the liquor portion. Cordials containing sugars that crystallize will prevent the portion valve from opening properly. Some flavored liquors can also create pouring problems.
As with the free pour wireless spouts, these expensive portion pourers need to be replaced when their rechargeable battery runs down. Portion pourers can be costly and may only last a couple of years.
3. Remote liquor systems dispense liquor with liquor guns (like soda guns) or liquor towers. Bottles are often kept in a back room and liquor is pumped to the bar through bundled tubing (similar to soda tubing.) A liquor gun can serve a maximum of 16 brands and some towers can dispense as many as 64 brands. The system will portion every shot and track potential sales for the brands dispensed through the system.
- PROS: The quick speed and accuracy that liquor is dispensed, by the press of a button on the liquor gun or tower, is the main reason for implementing a remote liquor system. Buttons can also be programmed to simultaneously dispense multiple liquors into a mixed drink for even faster service.
Remote systems offer the advantage of being able to relocate faster moving brands to the back room to free up space behind the bar.
- CONS: Remote dispensing systems are very expensive because they require liquor reserves, pumps, tubing, controllers and installation by a qualified dealer. Because of moving parts and intricacies of the system, there are frequent repair issues.
Since the number of remote brands being controlled is limited, another type of liquor control system will most likely be needed for brands not dispensed through the liquor guns or towers.
One complaint often heard about remote systems is that customers cannot see the bottle being poured when the drink is made. Patrons are often skeptical whether their drink includes the brand they actually requested.
4. Bottle pouring liquor control systems use an "activator ring" to release the liquor from special pour spouts placed on the liquor bottles. To serve a drink, the bartender inserts the pourer into their pouring stations activator ring, which looks like a donut sitting on a holder in the bartender's pouring station. The ring serves two purposes: It reads the pourer to identify the bottle and controls the opening and closing of the valve inside the pourer based on the pour size selected. Pour spouts are "locked" onto the bottle with security seals so no unauthorized removal of the spouts can take place.
Bottle pouring systems are available in 7-Price Tier (See our Eclipse Liquor Control System by CLICKING HERE) and Brand ID models. Pouring reports for each bartender are generated from a serial printer at the end of the bartender's shift. Or, the liquor pouring station can be "interfaced" to a POS terminal so every drink poured is automatically registered.
- PROS: The accuracy of the pours, consistency in the taste of drinks, ease of use for bartenders and ability to control every brand of liquor. Bartenders can choose from multiple pour sizes so they can prepare multi-liquor drink recipes properly. These systems can also dispense sugary liqueurs and cordials without any problems since 200 watts of power is supplied electronically to the activator ring.
Managers can easily hold bartenders accountable for selling all the liquor they poured by comparing the pouring report to their POS sales at the end of the bartender's shift. In less than 5 minutes, bartenders can be held accountable for any missing liquor or wine-by-the-glass sales.
Interfacing the Brand ID bottle pouring system makes sure that every liquor pour is rung into the POS terminal automatically as the liquor is poured. Managers are not required to compare pouring reports to sales reports.
- CONS: Two and three liquor drinks take a few extra seconds to prepare since only one liquor spout can be inserted into the activator ring at a time. Many bar operators have commented that the trade off for making sure every drop of liquor poured is sold and portioned properly is worth the extra seconds it takes to make the drink. Bars should optimally have one pouring station for each bartender to maximize speed and accountability.
There are often concerns by bar owners that their customers may have a negative initial perception of the control system. To insure a smooth transition, it is a good idea to have bartenders pour directly into a shot glass through the liquor system for the first few weeks so customers see they are not being short-shotted. Feedback from bar managers agree that the only customers lost when implementing a bottle-pouring system is those that were previously getting free drinks.