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Hotel Finds RFID Just Ducky for Drinks Management

The famous Peabody Memphis hotel uses RFID tags integrated with flow sensors to record and report alcohol poured at its lobby bar and banquet facilities. Managers use the system to see how consistently drinks are mixed, train bartenders, monitor unbilled pours, and monitor liquor inventory.
Tags: Retail
Jan 22, 2008This article was originally published by RFID Update.

January 22, 2008—Patrons of the lobby bar at the Peabody Memphis hotel might look up to see a parade of ducks marching in formation before settling into the fountain. The duck parade is a Peabody tradition that goes back to the 1930s. Those unaware of the tradition might think they're seeing things, or that the drinks at the lobby bar are unusually strong. But it's definitely not the drinks -- an RFID management system helps ensure that those are poured consistently.

The Peabody Hotel recently began using the Beverage Tracker solution from Capton, which uses RFID tags and sensors to monitor and record how much alcohol is poured each time a bottle is used. Managers get a variety of reports they can use to monitor consistency of preparation, monitor inventory, prepare liquor orders, and see unbilled drinks.

Each bottle monitored in the Capton system gets a plastic pour spout that has an integrated 418 MHz RFID tag and a flow sensor. An RFID reader connects to a point-of-sale terminal or PC. Each time the bottle is poured, the sensor records when and how much. The RFID reader, which can be up to 100 feet away from the bottle, automatically captures the bottle ID and the sensor data.

"ROI is almost immediate. The system proves its value within four to six months. That's been the standard for our customers," Capton's vice president of marketing Tricia James told RFID Update. "It's not so much from outright theft [e.g. stolen bottles or free drinks given to customers], but the sloppiness of consistency in pours. The biggest surprise for our customers comes when they look at the consistency patterns."

The flow meter is accurate to within one tenth of an ounce. Bar managers use the data to evaluate how consistently bartenders pour drinks and follow recipes, James said. Bartenders that aren't meeting standards typically receive additional training. While the system can also detect drinks that are poured but not charged, improved consistency is the result customers value most, according to James.

"Hotels really like the system for monitoring specialty cocktails, which is a big segment of the market right now," James said. "These drinks -- such as cosmos, flavored martinis, and others -- have to be crafted very carefully. Guests really want their drinks to taste the same every time."

"A primary focus for us is always about the guest experience," Alvin Walls, food and beverage cost controller at the Peabody, said in a statement provided by Capton. "We have big operations, a huge service bar, and a large number of exotic cocktails. We know that the guest experience is eroded when bartenders don't prepare drinks consistently. The Capton system identifies over-pouring, missing drinks, and unaccounted-for pours, giving us a visibility into our bar operations we never had before."

The Peabody also reported reductions in liquor inventory costs and improved revenues. It began using the system in its lobby bar and has expanded it to banquet operations, which James said is a growing trend.

Capton has more than 100 customers, including several large casinos and hotel chains. It is concentrating on the hospitality market with its core products. James said the system could be expanded to monitor wine and perhaps draft beer, but customers are most interested in liquor monitoring.

Thanks to the RFID system, guests at the Peabody shouldn't have to watch the bartender to make sure their drinks are mixed properly -- they can watch the ducks instead. See them yourself in this video.
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