RFID Pours Beer at Shopping Market

Lynn Street Market, a corner grocery in Danville, Va., opened this month with a 12-tap beer wall that allows shoppers to pour their own drink by tapping an RFID card against the wall's readers to control and pay for their pour into a glass or growler.
Published: October 29, 2019

Lynn Street Market, located in Danville, Va., opened this month as a neighborhood shopping center, but also as a place where locals can gather, meet and enjoy a pint of beer. The store features groceries, as well as a production kitchen, cooking classes, prepared meals to go and pour-your-own beer taps enabling shoppers to sample local beers at the store or take them home in growlers.

The solution enabling the automated taps employs passive HF RFID technology, compliant with the ISO 15693 standard, to detect a specific customer and link him or her with a particular beer pour. The system, provided by PourMyBeer, includes RFID readers built into 12 self-pour beer taps with four touchscreens for selecting a drink to pour, along with PourMyBeer’s cloud-based software to manage read data. Each customer is provided with an RFID tag built into a card that he or she can use to pay for the beverage being poured.

The self-serve beer wall provides a feature for customers that makes the shopping experience more fun, explains Steve DelGiorno, Lynn Street Market’s owner. With the new store, he says, the company offers fresh, natural foods, as well as integrated meals with prepared foods. “We see beer as an integral part of that,” he states. The neighborhood’s demographic likes craft beer, and the pour-your-own model allows those customers to sample different brands in the amounts they choose, while preventing individuals from pouring more than two drinks without employee approval.

The store features an integrated kitchen for preparing meals and providing customers with classes. The beer is an important element of the overall concept, DelGiorno says, adding, “The idea is you can come in, grab some sushi or rotisserie chicken to go, but you could also fill a growler or sit there and enjoy a pint while you’re in the middle of your shopping trip.”

DelGiorno says he has spent 20 years in the food retail industry, noting that Lynn Street Market represents an amalgamation of what he’s seen throughout his career. It’s a store format that fits in urban areas, he explains, in which a high density of people lack easy access to fresh food. As such, the market is intended to offer an alternative to the types of big-box-style stores at which those residents might otherwise shop. The 4,000-square-foot market will offer fresh food, cooking classes and children’s events, as well as space to sit down and drink beer with neighbors. “The system allows people to be more socially involved,” he states. “Not just pick up some eggs, but have a pint of beer with community members.”

Lynn Street Market’s sister business, Crema and Vine, has offered an RFID-based system for self-pouring wine for the past two years. At the café, 16 bottles are placed in a cabinet known as the Wine Station. Customers can use a touch screen to select a particular wine, then utilize an RFID-enabled pre-paid card to purchase a glass of wine with their meal and pour the glass themselves.

Tana Rulkova

The beer system works similarly. A store employee monitoring the wall first checks the ID of an individual making a purchase, then provides him or her with a new PourMyBeer card or approves that person’s use of an existing card. The card comes with a MIFARE DESFire EV1 RFID tag from NXP Semiconductors. The unique ID number encoded on the card is linked to that shopper’s credit card account information in the PourMyBeer software, but not to his or her identity, for privacy purposes, says Tana Rulkova, PourMyBeer’s marketing manager.

The individual selects a beer to pour at the touch screen. The wall includes an RFID reader manufactured by PourMyBeer for each of two taps. The shopper taps his or her card near the reader for the tap selected, then the system enables the pouring of the tap for that beer. As the customer pours the beverage into a growler or glass, the system measures the amount of the pour and displays that amount in real time on the screen so the user can view how much is being poured, along with the cost.

After the consumer completes each pour, the software stores the cost and deducts the cost of all drinks from that user’s credit card account at the end of the visit. “One thing that is a huge differentiator is the fact that the customers are in the rider’s seat when it comes to how much they are spending,” Rulkova says. “As they pour, they are seeing how many cents or dollars they are spending.”

The system limits consumers to only two drinks at a time: a 5- to 7-ounce glass of wine, or a 10- to 16-ounce beer. Once someone reaches that limit, he or she must approach a sales representative onsite, who can then reauthorize that individual’s card to access up to two more servings, if appropriate. Because the consumer pours his or her own drink, there is sometimes a tendency to pour more than would be provided at a traditional bar. A customer can pour a sample-size beer but still pay for that drink. Users tend to pour more carefully, Rulkova says, since they are charged for each ounce. In fact, she adds, the PourMyBeer system typically limits waste to 1 percent, while beer waste at standard bars can be as much as 25 percent.

The beer wall is expected to save time for customers, since they can simply select and pour beer rather than place an order that must then be filled by a bartender. It will include both regional and national or international brands, DelGiorno says, and will serve as a differentiator for the market. Customers were already anticipating the new store and its services before it opened, he says.

Lynn Street Market is one of a handful of markets around North America that offer self-serve beer walls (see RFID Brews Up Valuable Beer Data for Restaurant, RFID Users Help Themselves With Beer Server, Understanding Beer Drinkers, One RFID-Enabled Pour at a Time and RFID Lets Customers Self-Serve Craft Beers).