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Domo Arigato Mr. Bartendo: Pour your own beer or order a snack with self-service hospitality options

An example of a PourMyBeer beer wall. (Contributed)

“Hey, Stacy, good to see you!”
“Thanks, Stacy, good to be here. It’s been a long day. Beer me up.”
“Sure, Stacy, what would you like? Can I tap you up a nice crisp India Pale Ale?”
“That sounds great, Stacy. I think I will.”

Being your own bartender certainly does make the friendly banter a bit awkward. I’m definitely no “Ray” from “the Paddock.”

But, I must admit, the idea of being able to tap my own beer on a busy Saturday night, rather than wait in line behind a bunch of college kids – is intriguing.

That’s the idea behind PourMyBeer, a growing and relatively new business that a Shippensburg University graduate is trying to promote across the nation.

Josh Goodman, who now lives in Chicago, where he runs his business, said he got the idea for the tap your own system on a busy night at a bar where he and his friends were waiting close to a half-hour every time they tried to get a new beer. He said he couldn’t help but ponder how nice it would be to be able to tap a brew himself, or wonder how much the bar owner was missing in potential sales.

A business idea was born, and by 2014 he saw his business expand from a few dozen bars in Maryland and Pennsylvania to locations throughout the U.S. and Canada.

The concept is simple. When a customer enters a bar, a real person checks I.D. and opens a tab. The customers then go into the bar area and tap whatever beer they want – even perhaps sampling a few.

The catch – and the reason Pennsylvania and other state liquor control boards were so keen to approve the system – is that PourMyBeer will track a customer’s drinking by volume and time and will cut him off before he gets too drunk. That’s something a human bartender is supposed to do, but in reality it’s often difficult to do, especially on a busy night.

You can’t call a computer a jerk and demand that it get you another beer. Well, you can, but it’s unlikely that it will get you anywhere. When you’re cut off, you’re cut off.

The be-your-own bartender invention is just one of the latest technological innovations in the hospitality industry that makes computer automation a shiny substitute for traditional two-legged, two-armed human servers.

The Rose Group, which runs the Applebee’s restaurants in the Greater Lehigh Valley, installed table-side automated service pads at its newly remodeled locations.

The tablet-like stations allow customers to order drinks or appetizers and pay their bills.

So does this mean bartenders and food servers are going the way of typesetters and telephone operators?

Will their jobs be stolen by a new race of computerized bartending bots?

Not quite, said a spokesperson for the Rose Group. She assured that the pads are there to augment service, not to replace a server. She noted that you can’t order your full meal on the pads, just ask for additions or extra drinks.

Likewise, Goodman said the automated beer taps are there as a novelty, a convenience or a supplement to regular service, not as a substitute for it.

The business plan he pitches to potential customers is that they will get extra revenue from the tap system from consumers who may have just left without ordering if the bar line was too long.

Besides allowing customers to grab their own pint, that there are other advantages, Goodman noted.

The computer consoles can give customers information, or “tasting notes,” about each selection, which is easier than one poor bartender having to memorize all of the taps and recommend which beer might be the best match for each individual’s taste.

And while it gives information, it’s also accepting it. The machines can collect anonymous data that track which beers are the most popular when, in what areas and from what age group. Goodman said that is information that bars and brewers can use to plan future offerings.

Table-side ordering pads can be found at several Applebee’s in the Lehigh Valley, and a similar system is in place at Red Robins run by the Lehigh Valley Restaurant Group in the area.

If you want to try the PourMyBeer system, however, you may have to drive a bit. While Goodman said he’s approached a number of Lehigh Valley venues, he hasn’t gotten a customer here yet. The closest bars with the self-beer tapping system are in the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton and Harrisburg areas.

But give him time. He said the Lehigh Valley is an area he’s targeting for new customers and he hopes to soon have takers.

If not, he might just have to find a nice robo-equipment salesman.


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