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New tap system has beer flowing faster

Mass beer sales became a whole lot simpler to execute at the Wells Fargo Center on Tuesday night, thanks to an innovation that no doubt would make technology-savvy President Barack Obama proud.
MC  beerdispenserBottoms Up, an appropriately named beer dispensing system designed by GrinOn Industries in Montesano, Wash., debuted in Philadelphia during the Philadelphia Flyers' 5-2 victory over the Montreal Canadiens, and it was a smashing success, according to Ike Richman, spokesman for Comcast-Spectacor, owner of the Flyers, 76ers and the arena itself.
"It's an Internet phenomenon," Richman said. "It was being talked about and written about all over the place. We looked it up and investigated it and finally brought it in [Tuesday] night."
The system involves filling a specially designed cup from the bottom with a perfect pour from a tap in less than 5 seconds. What it means is that 40 or more beers can be poured in a typical four-tap station in less than a minute, which represents a boon to both consumers and the stadium industry.
The cups feature an opening on the bottom covered by magnetic disks that are temporarily displaced when they are placed on the taps, which fill them to the top with perfect pours every time. As soon as the cups are taken off the tap, the disks fall right back into place, creating a seal that prevents any leaks.
After the beers are finished, the magnets, which always feature some sort of company or event logo, can be saved as commemorative pieces that consumers can also hang on their refrigerators.
According to Richman, Tuesday night's debut was the first for this technology in the region. Sports venues in other areas of the country, such as Jacksonville, Fla., and Washington, D.C., had them first.More almost certainly will follow.
"We are researching the product now and considering its use for the upcoming season," Lehigh Valley IronPigs general manager Kurt Landes said. "But [it is] more likely for 2012. The video of the product is impressive."
Representatives of GrinOn Industries and other Philadelphia professional sports teams could not be reached for comment about this system.
Bottoms Up benefits consumers by cutting down or eliminating beer lines altogether during breaks in the action. Suppliers benefit by being able to sell so much more than before, with fewer fans growing discouraged by the wait or the poor quality and temperature of tap beer that is poured well ahead of time.
The caveat, for now, is that typically only one brand of beer is available in these setups. At the Wells Fargo center, for example, Budweiser is the "official" beer of the arena, and only Bud Light is available in the Bottoms Up system.
Richman doesn't expect that to change because of the marketing agreement with Budweiser.
So obviously one of the basic marketing ideas is to increase sales due to pure convenience.
Even though the Bottoms Up system also significantly reduces the 10 percent to 20 percent waste associated with conventional taps, it's not a feasible option for the bar-restaurant industry, according to Dave Rank, owner of the Starters bars in the Bethlehem area.
"You are going to save a hell of a lot of waste on beer," Rank said. "But it doesn't work in our business because we don't serve one type of beer."
Furthermore, his businesses aren't trying to serve thousands of people at a time, like stadiums, or have their customers drink more rapidly or frequently. So the extra speed is not a necessity.
Said Rank: "I don't want people drinking 20 beers in here."
Neither, obviously, do the servers at Comcast-Spectacor, who have been trained to identify and reject problem customers.
Our staff is fully trained with alcohol awareness programs," Richman said. "We monitor it closely. Our staff is very well trained to identify situations."
To that end, consumers are limited to two beers per trip.
No doubt, though, faster service will mean more alcohol consumption for some individuals, which could present a problem on the roads after games.
Either way, Bottoms Up beer sales only figures to grow in popularity, especially at larger venues such as NFL stadiums.
"You might be tapping 100,000 glasses of beer in four hours at an Eagles game," Rank said. "You don't want people waiting in line 20 minutes at halftime or during timeouts waiting for a damn beer. What a lot of people do is start going from counter to counter, and by the time you get back, you missed half of what was going on."
Added Richman: "We saw a significant increase in our beer sales as a result of Bottoms Up."
He didn't provide the specific numbers. But specific numbers aren't necessary in this case.
Bottoms Up is coming to a venue near you. Book it.
27 Jan. 2011

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