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Tapping IoT to monitor the flow of free beer

Clint Boulton | July 4, 2017
Buffalo Wild Wings has implemented a keg monitoring system in conjunction with integration software and APIs to curb beer comps at 1,200 locations, boosting revenue and increasing operational efficiency.

"We are seeing instances of organizations being burnt by their tight dependency on APIs which can change without warning, APIs which are discontinued unexpectedly, or APIs which have their pricing hiked," Gartner analyst Mark O'Neill tells "Putting a layer of mediation in place is a smart move because it insulates API consumers from unpleasant surprises, as well as giving them alternative options in the future."

At BWW, MuleSoft helps keep the kegs tapped and flowing freely (but not for free) at every BWW location. It connects Beerboard, whose IoT-enabled flow meters on the tap lines capture pour data for every beer type, with Aloha to measure pour volume against the sales transaction that contains information on the type and size of beer that was ordered. Real-time information about each beer selection is displayed on digital signs, as well as through mobile applications that general managers can access through their tablets and phones.

When a general manager procures a new type of beer to offer he can add information about the selection to Beerboard’s Smart Bar application, using a series of API web services supported by MuleSoft. The app ferries information about the beer to ServiceNow, after which IT can add information about the selection to the restaurant’s POS terminal. “With the solution, restaurant managers could easily submit their new beer request from within a single beer management application and IT teams can leverage the tools in their service management software to execute the request,” according to a case study about the implementation.


Automation 86es heavy lifting (literally)

Implementing Beerboard with such seamless connectivity was a daunting IT challenge considering that the company needed to configure all new beer items in POS systems in more than 1,200 restaurant before a restaurant can begin selling a new beer to a guest. It was also a departure from the traditional restaurant industry approach of lifting and shaking kegs to determine how much beer is left.

"People were guessing by picking up a keg to figure out how much beer is left in there," says Dave Lenzen, BWW's director of enterprise applications, who turned on the Beerboard last November. "There is a lot more waste if you are managing keg yield and volume without automation or diagnostics." As an unintended benefit, the automation also halved workman's compensation claims associated with employees who hurt themselves while trying to move the heavy kegs, Lenzen says.

Now Abraham is leveraging MuleSoft to connect BWW's systems to services from other third parties, part of a sweeping digital transformation that includes overhauls to its website, new table-side tablets that will process payments, and delivery services.

For example, MuleSoft will enable consumers to order meals from BWW online from any device and have it delivered by DoorDash and other third parties. This is particularly crucial as more than two-thirds of BWW's online orders come through the mobile web. "The POS will be talking to MuleSoft to enable all online ordering," Abraham says.


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