Thinking about boosting your business concept with self-pour technology? It’s still a pretty new idea so chances are, you have questions. Lots of them.You’ve come to the right place.
Practice makes perfect
We designed and built the very first self-pour tap wall system and since then, we’ve partnered and consulted with hundreds of operators to develop and launch successful concepts in a variety of markets—from taproom to casual dining to grocery. Learn about how it works →
We’ve seen it all and we’ve picked up handy insights and tips from every installation.
First-timer? Fear not.
A majority of iPourIt customers (about 3 in 4) don’t have experience as operators in the food, beverage, or hospitality industry. It’s usually their very first venture of this type and they often come from backgrounds in other industries like real estate, medical, sales, etc.
“The reason we chose iPourIt was because of the relationship I built with the team and how integral they were in helping us create this concept. From a consultative perspective—I’d never owned a restaurant before or done self-pour in the past—so I had no idea how to set that up. There’s a lot that goes into actually creating the system and I felt that iPourIt was there to support us to get that done.”
Owner, First Draft Taproom & Kitchen in Minneapolis
Watch an interview with Andrew to hear about his experience as a self-pour taproom operator and how iPourIt was integral in launching the tap wall.
As true self-pour partners, we coach new customers through a consultative onboarding process from early planning stages to opening day, providing guidance on things like:
- Creating a business plan and financial pro formas: using historical data collected from iPourIt locations
- What you need to get started: licensing, permits, financing, etc.
- Choosing the right location: build-out type, size, layout, etc.
- System requirements: which trades are involved, beer dispense, timeline, etc.
Now we’d like to share the tips we’ve picked up and answer some of the questions you may have if you’re considering self-pour for your business.
1. Is self-serve alcohol legal?
Self-pour technology has created an entirely new market and with that, comes new rules.
Unlike some other self-serve concepts (think frozen yogurt), alcohol service is carefully regulated—that of course applies whether you’re pouring it for your guests or they’re pouring it for themselves.
It’s important to research the laws around self-service in your specific jurisdiction as a first step when considering self-pour.
→ iPourIt Pro Tip
We recommend meeting with a local ABC representative and a member of your municipality or township to fully understand the laws in your area. Local laws can sometimes differ from the state level.
Self-pour is currently legal in 43 U.S. states, with the following exceptions:
- New Mexico
- West Virginia
The self-pour market is continuing to expand. In the cases where self-pour technology is not yet legal, long-standing, outdated laws are the biggest challenge.
Change is most often prompted by business owners who are determined to bring the self-pour experience to their community—ultimately creating jobs and driving revenue for their state.
Supporting the spread of self-pour
iPourIt has been a big advocate of the growth of the self-pour market.
In February 2021, we participated in a testimony for the legalization of self-pour technology in the State of Connecticut. After working with various parties for more than four years, the law was finally passed a few months later in June 2021. Click here to see a recording of the hearing – we testify at 5:15!
Not only have we supported operators in the lobbying of self-pour bills in several states, but our system was designed with special safeguards that help to address legal concerns and encourage safe drinking.
These built-in features allow operators to monitor individual consumption, and help to prevent over-serving and issues with underage drinking:
- 2D License Scan: Our check-in process requires a license scan that will tell an operator if the license is scannable, valid, and if it’s already in use at the location
- Pouring Ounce Limits: With iPourIt, operators can monitor consumption for each individual patron and allow a limit pouring to a specific number of ounces until the patron checks in with a staff member to request more
- ABV Tracking: SMARTS™ technology is able to track ABV levels for different alcohol types as patrons move between different beverages
→ Self-pour tech offers operators a level of control that can’t be replicated in a traditional bar setting, helping to ease the ABC’s concerns and create safer environments for alcohol consumption.
2. What do I need to get started?
It will be much easier to stick to the timeline and launch the self-pour tap system successfully if you consider these things in the initial stages:
- What’s your concept: Taproom? Casual Dining? Hospitality? Corporate Office? Luxe Living? Venue? Grocery?
- Will self-pour be the primary revenue driver for your business?
- Develop detailed financial pro formas to evaluate future performance
- Will you be self-funding?
- Are you looking for investors?
- Would you consider lease to own?
We offer financing options through a third-party service. If you’re interested, click here to get started or contact Kyle Hammond with Innovative Lease Services at 760-438-1470 for more information.
What type of project is it?
- Retrofit – typically an existing bar or restaurant, already set up for a service type business
- Grey shell – empty space, no interior walls, electrical, etc.
- Ground-up build – completely new construction
- Existing business – best for stand-alone, turn-key units
Get a feel for the market:
- What area is best for your concept?
- What size space do you need? (consider tap wall traffic, seating needs, kitchen etc.)
- What types of spaces are available?
→ iPourIt Pro Tip
Securing a space can be one of the most challenging steps. Team up with a local real estate broker to find out what types of spaces are available in your area.
iPourIt operators have had huge success with adding spirits and mixed drinks to their tap wall offering.
Consider this when determining which type of liquor license to obtain: Beer & Wine or Full Liquor?
Don’t wait! Securing a liquor license should be one of the first steps. It’s helpful to reach out to your local city council and connect with a representative for guidance and support.
- Have you acquired the proper building permits?
- What are the ADA requirements in your area?
→ If you decide to work with a general contractor, they can help define and obtain the necessary permits.
Please note: This is just a general overview – we’ll expand on some of the items in future posts!
3. Are there any self-pour operators in my area?
Self-pour is still a relatively new concept but awareness is spreading fast. While there’s a big upside to being the first to bring the experience to your town, there are also major benefits to operating in a market where the audience is already familiar with the self-pour.
To see a full list of current iPourIt operators by state, click here.
4. Who do I need to call?
Self-pour technology is just one of the many pieces of the puzzle when it comes to building out a successful new tap wall concept.
Here are the trades and services involved, and some handy details to help you make sure all of the bases are covered:
Self-pour technology includes hardware and software that pairs with a draft beverage system to enable self-service. iPourIt systems include the following components:
- RFID Enabled Tap Screens: allow guests to see beverage options and activate taps
- Flow Meter Valve Assemblies: measure the volume of liquid being poured
- Management and Enterprise Workstations: self-pour “command centers” for processing transactions and managing the system
- SMARTS™ Technology: custom-built self-pour software that powers the system
Although we’re typically the last trade on-site, it’s best to have a conversation with a self-pour provider first. The right partner will be happy to provide answers and guidance and make sure you have a firm grasp on everything from the start.
If you were opening a traditional full-service bar, beer dispense would be responsible for installing all of the equipment that would allow a bartender to be able to pour a beer.
Self-pour tech is the finishing piece, integrating with the beer dispense equipment to provide the capability for self-service.
They can help determine:
- Tap wall layout
- Cooler size
- Best way to run trunk lines
- Draft system parts i.e. faucets, drip trays, etc.
- Product style selection
Some beer dispense providers may also offer ongoing maintenance, line cleaning, and refrigeration services.
Work with one of our preferred partners:
GS Draft System Solutions
Location: Lake Forest, CA
Service area: National
gsdraft.com | 949-691-3799
Location: Huntingdon Valley, PA
Service area: Northeast & Mid-Atlantic
multiflow.net | 800-722-1999
Restaurant Equipment Supplier
Order things like glasses, kitchenware, and other miscellaneous items from a restaurant equipment supplier:
- Dishes: Glasses, Dishes, Containers
- Appliances: Dishwasher, Freezer, etc.
- Kitchen equipment: Fryers, Grills, Stoves, etc.
- Cleaning supplies
An architect and/or designer can help with drawing out the plans for your space and tap wall.
Our team often consults directly with the architect and/or designer to help optimize layout, floor plan, customer flow, etc.
→ iPourIt Pro Tip
Look for an architect with experience in your market, a solid understanding of the permitting requirements, and recommendations for local General Contractors.
If you choose to work with a General Contractor to help build out your tap wall and/or space, they’ll typically handle the following:
- Mechanical: HVAC, Hood & Venting, Fire & Suppression
- Electrical: High-voltage, Low-Voltage, Control – Networking, Drops for Devices, Security
- Plumbing: Water in and out, Drainage
Here are some of the trades they can help coordinate:
- High-voltage Electrician (110-220)
- Set up power for the building, power for cooler, tap wall, lighting
- Low-voltage Electrician/Networking
- Set up network, get devices connected, provide service for all connected devices
- Set up sound system, sound optimization, noise reduction, security
- Install water supply, drainage required for draft system, cooler, bathrooms
- Provide beverage system cooler, cooling
- Finishing, woodwork, floors, sheetrock, painting
Alcohol Beverage Distributors
Work with an alcohol beverage distributor to order products for your tap wall.
Every market has different distributors and rules, so it’s best to establish a connection early on and figure out who carries which brands.
Your distributor is key to your success and can assist with promotions, provide items like umbrellas and indoor signage, and possibly even offer line cleaning and other services.
For first-time operators, this can all be a bit overwhelming. We absolutely get it. We’ll be there to answer questions every step of the way, making sure you’re connecting with the right people at the right time.
5. What is the timeframe for opening a new self-pour concept?
The entire process for a new taproom build-out or retrofit typically takes 6 to 12 months. In rare cases, we’ve been able to turn smaller turnkey projects around in as little as 6 to 8 weeks.
Many factors can impact the timeline. It’s helpful to be aware of things that may cause hold-ups so you can prevent unnecessary delays:
- Figuring out financing
- Securing a location
- Obtaining permitting
- Construction scheduling
- Component lead times
Since we manufacture our own products, unlike some competitors who purchase from third-party vendors overseas, we have the fastest turnaround time in the market and we don’t have additional costs associated with sourcing and ordering equipment externally.
This is just the first in series of resources designed to help you find success as a self-pour operator. Stay tuned!