EXCERPT: Cameron Mitchell chain praises results from AccuBar

By James J. Scarpa, Nation’s Restaurant News, http://www.nrn.com/article.aspx?id=360242

(Nov. 19, 2008) Anxious to plug leaks in their beverage cost and rein in bar inventory in an economy that makes every bottom-line dollar precious, different operators are relying on different management technologies for enhanced control.

Among the technologies being pressed into service is the AccuBar system in use at Cameron Mitchell Restaurants, a Columbus, Ohio-based multiconcept operator with 25 units under such brands as Ocean Prime, M and Cameron’s American Bistro. The AccuBar technology simplifies inventory management by using scanner-aided measurement of bottle contents. The data is run through sophisticated back-end software that calculates pouring cost, updated perpetual inventory and highlights variances that may indicate that a bartender is failing to ring up drinks or pouring wrong amounts of liquor, so that timely corrections can be made.

A different approach and technology is found in the Capton Beverage Tracker system employed at Urban Tavern, a new Mediterranean restaurant in the San Francisco Hilton operated by C&L Partners. The Capton package uses radio frequency identification, or RFID, technology to measure and transmit the amount of every shot of liquor poured to a personal computer, or PC, running specialized software. In addition to computing pouring cost, that application also records how each drink was made and how each transaction was handled in the POS system, noting discrepancies that suggest faulty pouring or employee dishonesty.

At Cameron Mitchell Restaurants, using AccuBar from G4 Technologies Corp. of Englewood, Colo., has helped lower beverage cost, increase managerial efficiency and reduce dollars tied up in inventory. Those benefits were spelled out by Ryan Valentine, director of beverage and operating partner.

The key is its ability to take a physical bar inventory that is more accurate and roughly half as time consuming as a pencil-and-paper inventory, according to Valentine, thus allowing managers to be more efficient and effective at their jobs. “My whole gamble in spending the money on this was whether managers would use some of the time they saved on inventory to be more of an operator and diagnose their problems,” said Valentine. “And they are looking more closely at reports to tackle what’s going on within their four walls.”

No longer do managers tediously inspect and estimate the contents of bottles and transpose the numbers to a spreadsheet, an error-prone practice. In contrast to manual systems, with AccuBar, the manager uses a PDA, or personal digital assistant, to scan the barcode on a bottle and taps the touchscreen to enter the fill level. No data entry is needed, because the PDA syncs with the restaurant’s back-office computer, calculates inventory and generates reports that can be viewed online.

When AccuBar’s ordering function, which generates orders based on the bar’s par level and stock on hand, is used, the entire inventory and ordering process may be as much as 70 percent faster, according to Valentine.

At CMR, AccuBar brings welcome clarity to management issues, Valentine said: “If we see that spirits are way over in our specialty cocktails, we know either we’re overpouring or we’re not ringing them up. If we’re losing beer out of a storage area, that means there is a problem in the back-of-the-house.”

Furthermore, an accurate inventory is the first step to paring down excess stock and purchasing more wisely. Valentine said one store reduced its wine and spirits inventory by about $20,000 thanks to the system. “We didn’t change the size of the wine list; we changed the way we bought,” he added.

Another benefit of the technology’s better counting and accounting is spotting carelessness or dishonesty at the bar. “You can ask a bartender, ‘Did you break a bottle of blueberry vodka last night? Because I’m missing 7/10ths of a bottle,’ ” said Valentine. “When they know you see things like that, they’re much less likely to take liberties.”

Valentine added that AccuBar 4.0, the newest version of the system, has new wine management features useful with the large wine lists of CMR concepts like M, which has 300-plus labels. For one, it prints a wine list based on actual stock. For another, it can apply bin numbers to wine items to distinguish different vintages of the same brand.

Valentine declined to say how much CMR paid for the AccuBar system. But according to AccuBar officials, a system ranges in cost from $4,000 to $10,000 per unit in the majority of installations, depending on size and sophistication of the beverage setup, plus a $100-per-unit monthly fee for server hosting.

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Contact: Dave Grimm

dave@accubar.com

(720) 881-5477