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EBar is Here to Save Us From Flat, Pre-Poured Pints at Events
The mobile beer vending service can pump out 300 beers per hour.
I’ve been a big fan of EBar since first writing about them this past May. The Aberdeen, UK-based company makes a workhorse of a beer vending machine built to travel around to various events, cranking out hundreds of perfectly poured pints per hour.
But it wasn’t until this week that I was able to connect with Sam Pettipher, Co-Founder and Managing Director of EBar to learn more about the company firsthand. During our video chat, Pettipher explained what challenges EBar is facing, the adaptations it’s making, and how his company can eliminate paying for gross, tepid, flat beer while attending an English soccer match.
An initial hurdle for EBar was simply explaining what their machine is and isn’t to venue management. EBar operates “Beer-as-a-Service,” so it (literally) rolls its machines into a venue and plugs in the kegs and cups — both of which are provided by the venue. There is no upfront cost for the venue, with EBar taking a cut of sales.
“It's a strange concept to most of the operators at least initially,” Pettipher said, “We don't bring our own beer and [operators] are used to taking all the money. We sit somewhere in the middle.”
Pettipher said that there are still lingering questions that need to be answered with each setup. Some things need to be explicitly spelled out such as whom is responsible for fetching a fresh keg when one runs dry? Who grabs more cups? Etc.
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Another challenge for EBar is just educating consumers. At max efficiency, EBar targets pouring 300 pints per hour. But customers don’t immediately know how to use a newfangled EBar (and let’s be honest, customers at a soccer game in line for beer might also be otherwise…. impaired). First time users will walk up to the machine unsure of what they want to order, or not have their card for payment ready, or will accidentally grab three cups at once and spend precious time trying to separate them. Pettipher said all of this has slowed the EBar down to pouring 150 pints per hour, but as the service gets repeat users and becomes more common, these issues resolve themselves and that number will go back up.
To help get new customers up to speed Pettipher said EBar is looking at places like resorts (think: Disneyland) where a lot of effort is spent educating people standing in line. For EBar could include signage reminding them to have their order and payment method out before they step up to the machine. (Or, might I suggest, a sign suggesting that the most sober person buy the next round.)
Despite these wrinkles Pettipher says the biggest issue for his company right now is keeping up with vendor demand. EBar only has three machines that move as one packaged unit from venue to venue. “We are now looking at events three weekends out of four,” he said, noting many bookings are repeat customers. “The challenge we currently face is we need more capacity.”
What’s driving demand? Well, the UK, like here in the US, is facing a labor crunch, a problem exacerbated by Brexit. While these venues have fewer human workers, Pettipher said providing a stellar customer experience is still a top priority for them. “Customers are paying premium prices for drinks at these venues,” he said, “Most drinks at the peak time are pre-poured, and have sat in the back.” EBar, on the other hand, can provide a fresh, cold pint on-demand.
EBar can also provide a variety of different types of pints. Though the company limits each machine to one type of beer (to keep things simple), its technology can adapt to pour different types of beer. A machine could be progammed to pour a Guinness, for example, which requires a different dispensing head (though Pettipher pointed out that people wanting a Guinness may not want it poured in thirty seconds).
Earlier this summer, EBar raised £670,000 via equity crowdfunding, which will go towards building the next set of units for Q1 of next year. EBar currently requires two people to operate three machines, but Pettipher said that two human workers will be able to operate thirty machines at a time once the company reaches scale. However, most venues, Pettipher said, could probably make due with ten units.
Something tells me that if EBar can overcome its capacity issues, it will be making due with a surge in demand from beer-serving venues around the globe.