Draft beer is a significant revenue and profit driver for Buffalo Wild Wings (BWW) (www.buffalowildwings.com
). Company-wide, BWW restaurants offer approximately 20 imported and domestic beers on tap, and approximately 24 percent of restaurant sales are from alcoholic beverages.
The challenge, however, is in the proper management and control of draft beer
due to its inherent characteristics. Since draft beer is poured out of 2,000 ounce kegs, measuring, controlling, and managing draft beer inventory is a nightmare. Old techniques of weighing kegs and manually estimating inventory are time and labor intensive, as well as inaccurate. As a result, the category is highly susceptible to losses and waste due to employee theft, faulty equipment, or poor pouring techniques. Draft beer losses of 20-25 percent are common in the restaurant industry.
In order to address this problem, JK&T Wings, a BWW franchisee with more than 30 locations, started working with Syracuse, N.Y.-based US Beverage Net (www.usbeveragenet.com
) on a real-time draft beer monitoring platform.
US Beverage Net’s system automatically compares exact ounces of beer poured with the number of “rings” on the restaurant point-of-sale (POS) system in real-time to determine any losses. The system uses flow-meters installed in each beer line to measure the ounces of beer flowing through. The data is collected by the company’s proprietary “bevBOX” that sends the data to the company’s secure servers via the Internet. Real-time information can be accessed on US Beverage Net’s website from any remote location, in addition to text message and e-mail alerts for high losses. The system has some valuable add-on features including a thermocouple to measure the air temperature of the beer cooler. Temperature fluctuations result in higher amounts of waste due to foam. If the cooler temperature fluctuates above or below a certain threshold, the system triggers a text message alert to the manager. The website also allows management to view brand performance in the form of charts and graphs to manage the brand mix effectively.
US Beverage Net’s system has allowed JK&T Wings to achieve draft beer yields of 97 percent on a consistent basis. Access to real-time and accurate information as well as a monthly subscription fee model (which includes all equipment, maintenance and support) allows operators to focus on reducing losses and fixing problems rather than maintaining and servicing equipment.
Having thoroughly tested the system at six locations, JK&T Wings is now in the process of implementing it at all company locations and also integrating it into basic employee training at each of its regional training facilities. With companywide implementation of the system, JK&T general managers will have the ability to easily and accurately control their draft costs, while regional managers will have the ability to track the performance of their general managers. Top-level management will have the ability oversee draft beer performance and costs in all company stores, resulting in increased and consistent profitability.
Brian J. Carmody is the chief operating officer of JK&T Wings, a Buffalo Wild Wings franchisee with over 30 locations in Michigan, Illinois, Louisiana, and Massachusetts (opening in November 2010). Brian joined the company in June 1994 and has since held various positions in the company including manager, general manager, director of operations, and now COO. Brian graduated with a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Ferris State University and is a National Restaurant Association certified Food Service Management Professional (FMP).