Multiple ways to offer self-service

Multiple ways to offer self-service

A couple weeks ago, we attended the National Restaurant Association Show in Chicago. There were a few themes throughout the show but one topic kept coming up over and over with our booth visitors – self-serve options. As beverage technology begins to gain speed, people are looking for more unique experiences for their guests.

Self-serve tap stations offer a number of benefits, including keeping lines short and minimizing staff needs. They also enable and encourage your guests to try a variety of beverages, possibly some that they wouldn’t have thought to order off of a typical menu. Self-service turns your beverage service into an engaging experience.


There are different ways to implement self-service but the basic premise is the same: the guests do the pouring. Here are a few ideas:

Cafeteria Style

If your tap stations are located behind a payment check point, you can leave them open and unlocked during service for guests to serve themselves.

This is the easiest way to offer self-service because it doesn’t require any special user identification or codes. You simply leave the taps unlocked during service and allow the customers to pour from your taps.

You can implement it simply or get more sophisticated, depending on your portion control and locking needs. With a solution that controls the pour and automatically locks during off hours, your staffing needs will be minimal. You can be sure that guests are getting the perfect amount and eliminate unauthorized pouring.

Without individual identification, you could miss out on some data opportunities. But, as long as you have a system that is tracking actual ounces, you’ll get a pretty clear view of your service.

Email Access

When a guest or member would like to purchase servings (or you’d like to offer some on the house), your staff can use an online system to allot a certain number of glasses or ounces per guest. The guest will receive an email with their beverage allotment, a link, and instructions for redemption. Then, all they have to do is go to the station, click the link, and pour.

This allows you to firmly control who can pour, which offers insight into your service with each pour mapped to a specific guest or member. While you can use this method with an open station, a system that can be locked and unlocked directly through the allotment system is the most streamlined solution.

PIN Number

Your self-serve stations can be equipped with a tablet or keypad. Then, whether you choose to keep the station locked or unlocked, your guests input a unique code to register their serving.

Again, this works best with taps that can lock and only allow pours once the code has been entered, but it can also be used on unlocked taps purely for tracking purposes, associating a code entry with the pour that follows. You will get some data benefits but unless each guest has their own unique code, the granular tracking is limited.

RFID Scanning

Each guest or member would have their own unique card, wristband, or other token that they use to swipe over a sensor at the machine and keep track of what they pour through your stations.

The most popular way to implement this solution is with taps that remain locked until the card or other trigger is swiped across the sensor. Then, the station or tap will unlock for a single pour before re-locking automatically. Similar to the PIN number system, it can also be used to track pours from unlocked taps but there is an increased risk of theft.


Any of these implementations are easily achieved with an IoT-connected solution – like TapWise – which has the lock/unlock functionality built in and can be controlled remotely from any mobile device.

Keep in mind that each state has different laws on the way alcohol can be served. If you’re considering adding a self-serve station to your venue, we would love to help you find the best fit.

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