Self-service beer taps coming your way

Posted at 12:10 PM, Jan 16, 2015

NEW YORK (CNNMoney) — How much do you hate waiting for another beer in a crowded bar?

It irked Josh Goodman enough to invent a pretty obvious solution — self-service beer taps.

Goodman, 36, recalled the exact moment in late 2008 when his frustration boiled over.

“I was hanging out with my friends at a Baltimore sports bar before an Orioles game,” he said. “We just couldn’t get another beer served to us quickly.”

Even more than being annoyed, Goodman was struck by how much money the bar must be losing. Almost immediately, he got to work on a self-service beer concept.

Within a few months, Goodman had launched PourMyBeer in Chicago (where he’d relocated to be with his wife).

He invested $20,000 of his own funds and partnered with a U.S. manufacturer to make beer tables with two to four self-service taps.

In February 2009, Goodman landed his first client: A Baltimore tavern. He spent the next two years growing the business and adding more bars and restaurants.

In 2011, PourMyBeer introduced self-service “beer walls,” which let people pour their own beer from taps on a wall.

“We’ve seen people waiting on line to use the self-service unit,” said Scott Taylor, president and COO of Walk-On’s Enterprises. The Baton Rouge, La.-based sports bar franchise has PourMyBeer’s tables in four locations and plans to roll them out in three new bars.

“We’re committed to this,” said Taylor. “It’s efficient and we’re making a little more money on beer sales. Most importantly, our customers think it’s neat.”

It requires bars and restaurants to be vigilant about underage drinking. There are also safeguards in place to make sure people aren’t overserved. (To access the beer wall, for instance, customers have to use an RFID-enabled wristband or card.)

“It’s controlled access. The units give 32 ounces, or two glasses of beer per person at a time,” said Goodman. When the limit is reached, customers can reactivate for more pints.

PourMyBeer has expanded to over 200 restaurants and bars in 28 states and Canada. The concept will roll out in Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport this week and in Italy and Brazil later this year.

The tables start at $4,000 and the beer walls cost as much as $16,000. It generated more than $400,000 in sales in 2013 and doubled that in 2014. Goodman expects to take in close to $2 million in revenue this year — which would make it the company’s first profitable year.

“Our business customers tell us that they’ve cut down on waste and they’re selling twice as much beer on average,” said Goodman.

There’s one other benefit. The self-service beer units are hot social media fodder.

“People take pictures of themselves using it, and tag their friends,” he said. “That’s great advertising for us and it’s also indirectly driving more traffic to the bars and restaurants.”