Can you imagine tons of craft beer going to waste, sloshing around in the bottom of a keg, never to be served or tapped? It may not keep you awake at night, but it’s led to multiple patents for Steve Hershberger’s SteadyServ Technologies, an Indiana company tapping big data beer solutions for the hospitality industry nationwide.
After starting his own successful brewery Flat12 Bierwerks in 2009, Hershberger knew there had to be a better way to track, order and serve America’s favorite beverage that equates to a $100 billion a year industry.
“Getting it wrong, or getting it right, is the difference between being profitable and staying alive,” he said from his Carmel-based office. In a few years, he came up with a solution of real-time monitoring via smartphones and tablets, a system easy enough for a fifth-grader to use, but sophisticated enough for a retailer to tap real-time sales and inventory reports to stay profitable.
Hershberger, chairman and CEO of SteadyServ Technologies, says an average consumer drinks 2.45 pints of beer in one setting. But that same consumer won’t drink what a bar, restaurant or hotel doesn’t have once a favorite brew is suddenly sold out. Instead, the person whose favorite beer is not on tap will simply stop ordering. Hershberger estimated that the “out of inventory” issue translates to $700 million in lost sales annually.
According to the Beer Institute, there are 576,000 beer selling retail establishments in the United States. So that leaves plenty of beer to monitor.
Here’s how the SteadyServ system works: A radio-frequency identification label is attached to every keg. A 14-pound monitoring collar called an iKeg (which works on both iOS and Android) stacks with the kegs as they get tapped. The data collected on keg volume – through weight and pressure changes – goes through a special radio frequency and over Verizon’s 4G LTE cellular network, completing the loop for a convenient machine-to-machine, or M2M, solution.
Based on the SteadyServ solution, a bartender receives text alerts when a keg needs to be replaced, and a manager receives real-time inventory reports on a tablet. The monitoring reports also reveal what’s selling – and what’s not. Knowing what customers like and don’t like is critical to an ever changing inventory, especially with the explosion of craft beers and breweries.
Some retailers using the SteadyServ system have reduced the loss of sellable pints left sloshing around in a keg by as much as 43%. It’s a system that’s attracted plenty of media attention as well, including highlights for the Hoosier start-up in The New York Times and Washington Post.
Soon, big data will be used to manage and predict customer picks in order to determine which markets are new opportunities for possible expansion – because what beer drinkers want in Indiana is very different from what beer drinkers want in North Carolina.
Hershberger’s clients include major hotel chains and restaurants, including Marriott and Buffalo Wild Wings. His company’s M2M solutions in the hospitality industry are keeping retailers profitable and customers happy, as well as taking the guesswork out of the supply chain for distributors.
As Hershberger’s business card confirms: “Because wanting and having your beer are not the same thing.”
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