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To Teach Bartenders How to Make Cocktails, Just Add RFID

Some bars and restaurants are utilizing an RFID-enabled system to train bartenders how to pour the right amount of liquor, and to measure their progress.
By Claire Swedberg
May 19, 2008Several bars and restaurants have been employing radio frequency identification to teach employees how to accurately and consistently pour a mixed drink. The training program is part of the Capton Beverage Tracker system, which records the amount of liquor used to make drinks (see Vegas Hotel-Casino Uses Tags to Keep Tabs on Liquor.

Recently, Sandia Resort & Casino, located in Albuquerque, N.M., implemented the Capton system and used it to train its employees. Harry Denton's Starlight Room, in San Francisco's Sir Francis Drake Hotel, also put its nine bartenders through training, implementing the system in January.

Glenn Price
A dilemma facing many bar managers involves how to ensure that a bartender pours the same amount of liquor (typically 1.5 ounces) for each mixed drink. Tracking pours can be difficult since most bar customers prefer to see their drinks poured in front of them, without the use of measuring containers, so a bartender must be accurate at repeatedly pouring a very specific amount throughout a shift.

Capton provides bar owners with a system for tracking how much a bartender pours. The system includes a sensor and battery-powered RFID tag in a bottle's spout that first measures the amount of a pour, then transmits that amount to an interrogator usually installed on a bar's ceiling, cabled to a server where it can be tracked remotely—either in real time, or later. Because only one bartender is typically assigned to a specific station for each shift, a bar's management knows who is responsible for those specific pours. But making a bartender accountable for each pour isn't always enough if that person is unable to accurately pour every drink. That's where the training comes in.

Before a system goes live, Capton provides an instructional program for managers and bartenders to understand how the system works, and to test their own skills. Glenn Price, Capton's director of business services, conducts many of the training sessions himself, and brings a mobile RFID station that includes RFID-enabled bottle spouts and a laptop computer connected to a portable reader and video projector for displaying results on a big screen.

First, Price says, he explains to managers how the system works, and how to use the software to track the amount of liquor poured at any particular time, as well as whether drink sales matched those pours. When bartenders receive their training, he adds, he lets them pour out what they think to be 1.5-ounce drink through a spout that includes a battery-powered 418 MHz RFID tag and a sensor to measure the amount of liquid passing through it.

The typical acceptable pour, Price explains, is between 1.35 and 1.65 ounces. "We will get a group of 10 or 15 bartenders and get them pouring," he says. "They need to pour six or seven times within range." That can take a half hour to learn, or sometimes several hours, and bartenders can monitor their results by viewing the screen. "No one leaves the room until they are pouring within range," he states. Bartenders typically judge the volume they pour either by feel, or by the time it takes to pour the correct amount out of a bottle.

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