By Gregory Daurer | Sep 02, 2018
Digital beer menus and apps
There isn't a sporting match on these TVs. But go into a taphouse or brewery that's using DigitalPour, and you'll find the customers viewing the flatscreens behind the bar. On display is information about what's being poured: for example, the beers' names and styles; the ABVs; the type of glassware the beers are being served in; taste descriptions; how much a pint, crowler, or growler sells for; the logos of the assorted breweries on the guest taps, and those breweries' geographical locations.
"People like looking at the board and seeing all the information that's up there," says Brian Shannon of the Valley Growlers Neighborhood Taphouse in Happy Valley, Oregon.
Furthermore, Shannon's customers can see a similar digital display -- with its icons indicating how full the kegs are -- on the taphouse's website as well as on DigitalPour's phone app. A hazy, fruity IPA collaboration between Block 15 Brewing of Corvallis and Portland's Great Notion Brewing has just been added? Better get in soon! That's not going to last, all that long. Revisit the site and find out how quickly the keg is depleting in real time.
"To run a digital menu program, it used to [cost] thousands of dollars to get a system up and running," says Marcus. "Now it's easy and inexpensive." While her business doesn't provide any of the hardware (customers purchase that on their own), the company will set up its software for use for $299 to $699, then there's a monthly service fee of $69 or $99.
Taphouses and breweries relay information to and from DigitalPour's servers using a computer stick plugged into the establishment's point of sale system and into the digital display. "It's a software program that is highly customized. We know how [our clients have] set up their whole system, and they're managing everything through our program," says Marcus. "You should get an accurate read within a pint or two of when the keg kicks."
There's an inventory management and analytics component: "Our system is tracking what's selling, and how it's selling. So, to get a report or a dashboard that says, okay, these are my biggest money makers right now, that's invaluable information," Marcus explains. "We do ordering and receiving, as well, so you track how much you're spending with each distributor, what deposits you're getting back. It becomes the hub for running your whole entire draft system."
She adds, "[It helps] having those analytics and numbers right there to send off to your accountants when it's time to do your taxes. What's the loss you've created this year [such as, when foam -- in other words, liquid dollars -- goes down the drain when filling a growler]? That's a valuable number that people weren't tracking before."
The program also assists clients update their social media when, for instance, a new keg has been added or there's a happy hour price change.
Launched in June 2012, DigitalPour now provides its services to over 650 businesses in close to 30 countries -- including the U.S., Ireland, Spain, and Japan. "It's written for all languages and money types," Marcus says of the software. "In Israel, we had a customer who wanted to show everything in Hebrew, but then he wanted another menu to show everything in English. So, we can do that. We don't charge per display."
DigitalPour has also provided mobile app assistance to the Big Beers, Belgians and Barleywines Festival. CompanyWeek writer Angela Rose used the app at the 2018 festival and found it a useful navigational tool.
The company offers a month-to-month contract and around-the-clock support. Marcus says, "We try to make it really easy, almost effortless, to say yes."
DigitalPour co-founder and CTO Eric Sterling began developing a beta version of DigitalPour in 2011 for Bailey's Taproom in Portland, and once the bugs were worked out, the company began taking on additional clients. Marcus says it makes sense for a business like Bailey's to sign on, since that taproom rotates kegs so frequently. "To keep up with that with a chalkboard was nearly impossible," she says.
So where did Marcus, previously the manager of a top-rated French restaurant in Portland, connect with Sterling? Given the nature of their business, it's almost no surprise to learn they met online through a dating site. Although they're no longer dating, Marcus says, "We had a business license within three months of our first conversation."
Challenges: DigitalPour rebounded after being the victim of a cyber attack, says Marcus. "We were hacked a year and a half ago and our database was stolen. That was a big challenge: getting everybody back up and running. We were back up and running in 48 hours with a basic [version], and then it took us six weeks to get everybody back customized. It taught us a really valuable lesson about software security, and we hired a DevOps professional to come in and really [help us] understand how we were doing things, and showed us how to back things up better, how to have better security."
The company lost 20 accounts as a result, but Marcus says DigitalPour retained 400 loyal customers. They sent cookies in the mail or pizza to their office, as the company worked to rectify the issues. "It was really sweet," she says.
Opportunities: Meeting potential customers in person at beer events. "I would love to do more beer festivals and events," says Marcus. "That's a really exciting part of the job. I want a tour bus equipped with digital signage." The company has assisted with inventory management at the Craft Brewers Conference and BrewExpo America, as well as vending there, and it's pictorially displayed the offerings available at Savor.
Needs: Since DigitalPour only provides software to customers, Marcus envisions a potential collaboration with a business that can provide, for instance, the digital displays and sticks that customers will want to purchase: "I would love to partner with a hardware company, just to send them the business right away."