Webinar Questions and Answers

Answers From Our Speakers

During our webinar, How to Adjust Your Operations to This New Normal, we received several questions for each of our three speakers. While we didn’t get to ask every question during the virtual event, which you can access here, we followed up with each operator and got your questions answered! 

Below you’ll find the answers to all of your questions relating to self-pour systems, operational adjustments to COVID-19, and so much more.  

Steve Soble Headshot

Q & A With Steve Soble

Co-Owner of District Brew Yards

Brewery – 40 Taps

Steve Soble is the founder of Burnt City Brewing. After graduating from Dartmouth College in 1986, Mr. Soble began his career at The Quaker Oats Company in Chicago in brand management. In 1989, he left Quaker to open his first of over 20 independent businesses. Steve founded Burnt City Brewing in 2012. In 2019, Steve started District Brew Yards, a collective brewery housing 4 breweries, bottle shops, and a restaurant in the West Loop of Chicago.

We made a decision when we first opened District Brew Yards to be 21+, so we don’t even allow anyone under 21. We’re an adult-only establishment.

We had a good couple of days meeting with our staff members explaining everything and we basically go through it every single day. We’re very lucky because we’ve had the same staff throughout the pandemic, thanks to the PPP program. We have not closed since the original closure in the spring, we brought as many people back as we could and that’s been the key to continuity – just having the same staff members here makes it all go that much better.

Actually, we see a higher percentage of women at DBY. I would estimate that we are well over 50% female. I believe it is because people can pour small samples without judgment and not have to throw away a beer that was not liked. Most people love to only pay for what they consume.

We have not considered direct payments. We still must check ID’s so there is still some interaction. Also, we love the data we get from PMB and I’m not sure we would get the same data from direct payments. 

We are always concerned about customers drinking and driving and we can always be sued. We are fortunate in Chicago that most of our customers use public transportation, Ubers, or walk. We also have long-standing policies about customer evaluations and preventing problems before they occur. Still, we have to always be vigilant.

John Felico Headshot

Q & A With John Felico

Taproom/Bar – 24 Taps

John Felico is the founder of Auggie’s Draft Room in St. Augustine, Florida. Straight out of high school John opened a food truck (Dominic’s of New York) near Kennedy Airport in New York. John took the Dominic’s of New York concept, franchised it, and signed a development deal with Lowes Home Centers. John opened 175 locations before selling it in 2016. Over the years, John has developed a number of restaurant concepts, including Stacks Subs and The Olde Glory Coffee Company. Since semi-retiring in 2018, John continues to work in the Food Service industry as a consultant and also opened Auggie’s Draft Room with his wife and son-in-law.

Not at all. I was a little surprised at that myself. In the beginning, I was talking with my wife and my son-in-law and I actually wanted to go with plastic cups when we first opened and they shot me down quickly because they didn’t think it would be high-end enough. We got quality cups and not even a little bit of pushback. It’s been great. The only pushback we get is that customers can reuse the same cup. I know people want to reuse their same cup.   

Oh, no question about that. The first reason is because we’re self-pour we aren’t considered a bar, so we were allowed to open when other bars were not allowed to open in St. Augustine, which helped us out a bunch. The other reason is we did an interview and told customers that we’re the safest place because nobody ever touches their cups. Nobody touches their drinks. They come in, grab a card, wear gloves. It’s really the safest place you could be.

In the state of Florida there are multiple levels of alcohol permits. Any establishment that serves over 50% alcohol is considered a “Bar.” Bars remain closed for about six months. If you serve less then 50% alcohol (which is where we fall in), you are considered a restaurant that serves alcohol and we were allowed to open when the restaurants opened. But, for those that have a restaurant permit, but also had an actual physical bar where people could order drinks from a bartender could only open their restaurant but they were not allowed to open the bar area. This is where we fell through the cracks. As a self-pour system with no bartender we were allowed to operate.

Because I’m stupid and didn’t do enough research before I opened Auggie’s Draft Room. I knew nothing about a draft system. I asked a lot of questions, but no one mentioned all the difficulties surrounding a long draw system. It would have cost me about 20K to redesign our restaurant to handle a direct system. I should have done it, it would have saved me so much money and headaches in the long run. If your beer is not in the Goldilocks zone, by that I mean your beer needs to be pouring between 33 degrees and 37 degrees, it will just pour pure foam. You only have 4 degrees to work with. In a direct draw, you only have to worry about the temp of your cooler. In a long draw, you have the worry about the cooler, the glycol, the glycol generator, the glycol compressor, the trunk lines (our trunk lines run through our kitchen, if our kitchen is over 80 degrees, we are pouring foamy, so that means we have to worry about the A/C in our kitchen as well). Did you know besides Glycol, there is another coolant (freon) in the glycol compressor and you can be sure that if your freon has a leak, you will find out in the middle of a Saturday night! I can go on and on, but I think you get it.

Why does this cost you money:

  • Reason 1: Your last speaker said it best: “I really wish we could have someone at the wall. So many of our customers pour their beer and walk away with a glass of foam.”  Nothing upsets a customer more than a glass of foam, nothing. They feel like they are being ripped off! The reason for the foam has very little to do with the customer’s ability to pour a beer, it’s because the beer is not in the Goldilocks zone. Only skilled bartenders can pour a beer when it’s out of the Goldilocks zone. At this point what do you do when your customers are upset, you comp their beers or you have a bad review on yelp. 
  •  
  • Reason 2: We clean our lines every week. We waste 64 ounces of each beer when they flush out the lines because of the long draw. Times that by 24 lines and we are wasting a lot of beer.  If it was a direct draw, you would only waste 5 to 10 ounces of each beer.

I’m not happy with my current supplier, I’m getting my cups directly from China, but I don’t like the quality at all. I’m working a new supplier now, I will share it with you once I feel comfortable with them.

We go through about 1 box of cards every six months (I think there are 200 cards in each box). To me, it’s the cost of doing business. By the way, we do charge a service charge when the customer loses or takes a card. I never used the wristbands, so I can not comment if they are better or not.

Noah Siebenaller Headshot

Q & A With Noah Siebenaller

Executive Chef & GM at Beasts & Brews

Full-Service Restaurant – 99 Taps

Noah Siebenaller is the General Manager and Executive Chef of Beasts & Brews in Colorado Springs, CO.  After graduating from The Art Institute of Colorado, Chef Noah left his career in Real Estate and began his adventures opening (and closing) restaurants in Wyoming and Colorado.  In 2018 he was asked to help open Beasts & Brews.  Not knowing anything about self-pour systems at the time, Chef Noah now operates one of the largest PMB locations, with 100 taps. He may be a Chef with his heart in the kitchen, but he is an Operator in nature.

We aren’t using any sleeves or gloves, but we have napkin stations all around the restaurant and all-around our beer walls as well as large signs that say “Don’t touch the taps without a napkin.” 

This is the one struggle that we have – getting cards into guests’ hands in a timely manner during a busy shift. My server assistants and hosts will get cards started while the guest is waiting for their server to greet them that way they can start pouring beers if our servers are backed up. 

We would love to see the OpenTable integration allow you to save the customer’s information so we could have the card premade when they arrive and get the card to them faster.  

We use a Direct Draw system and push with a Nitrogen/Co2 blend.

Underage drinking is definitely a concern for us as we have the US Air Force Academy directly across the highway from us. It is our policy to ID anyone that appears to be under the age of 40 and everyone must drink using their own pour card. With us being table service, our servers are able to keep an eye on their tables for this.

Yes, we have 8 wines on tap (in addition to spirits, cocktails, kombucha, and cold brew coffee). This allows us to maximize our offerings to our guests without having to have a “traditional bar” and bartender. It’s also much cheaper to buy wines by the Keg vs. bottle, allowing us to minimize pour cost and maximize profits on each portioned pour. It also prevents any over-pouring from a bartender.

I don’t know if there is a “magical” number of taps to maximize returns. I think it completely depends on the style and size of your concept. We have 100 taps, and it’s definitely a lot, but it allows us to have a large variety for our guests. One of the draws for us is our large offering.

If we have a particular beer that isn’t selling as well as we’d hope, we move it to one of our portioned “Kill the Keg” lines. By doing this, the guest has the option to pour a large or small glass at a set price. They feel like they’re getting a deal on the glass and we’re still making money on the pour. We also use it to cook within the Kitchen, as long as it’s not an IPA.

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