Multiple Ways to Offer Self-Service

Multiple Ways to Offer Self-Service

This article about self-service has been updated since its original publish date on June 13th, 2018.


Each year, Sestra attends the National Restaurant Association Show in Chicago. The 2018 show featured one recurring topic that our booth visitors continually inquired about– self-serve options. As beverage technology gains speed, hospitality venues continue to look 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.


While there are multiple ways to implement self-service, the basic premise is the same: the guests do the pouring. Here are a few ideas that Sestra can help you implement:

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. Your venue simply leaves the taps unlocked during service, allowing customers to pour.

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 and closing procedures are minimal. You can ensure that guests are getting the perfect pour while eliminating unauthorized serving.

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

Email Access

When a guest or member would like to purchase servings (or your venue would like to offer some on the house), your staff can use an online system to allot a specified 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 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 that offers the most data.

App Integration

Like Email Access, App Integration encourages Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) service. Guests purchase their beverages through your venue’s app, then scan their QR code (or proof of purchase) at the tap, unlocking their serving. 

App integration allows a more branded experience as you connect with your guests. This option also works best with taps that can lock, allowing your customers to pour once their QR code has been scanned, but it can also be used on unlocked taps purely for tracking purposes. You will get some data benefits but, unless each guest has their own unique QR code, granular tracking is limited.

PIN Service

With PIN service, your self-serve stations will need to 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 unlock. Similarly to Email and App integration, you will get some data benefits but unless each guest has their own unique code, more specific 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 system, it can also be used to track pours from unlocked taps but there is an increased risk of theft.

Payment Kiosks

Payment kiosks are exactly how they sound. Your self serve stations can be equipped with payment stations that allow your guests to pay by credit or debit card. Once payment is received, your taps unlock, allowing your guest to serve their own perfect pour.

An at-the-tap Point of Sale (POS) system allows your venue to link beverage selection and payment directly to authorization through integration or with payment hardware. 


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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