These Beer Ads Are Seriously Off the Wall

Technology turns tavern flat-screens into ad vehicles for brew brands

For Jim McGrath of the motorsports-themed dining chain Quaker Steak & Lube, flat-screen TVs dotting the walls used to be reserved for baseball and hockey games. Now, they’ve been transformed into an unlikely revenue stream.

When QS&L opens its 50th restaurant next week, it’s “an ROI no-brainer” in that it, as other outposts of the chain, will feature digital ads for brands such as Budweiser and Blue Moon, said McGrath, a hospitality marketer for the last 25 years.

“Years ago, I couldn’t have imagined it,” he said.

The ads are delivered via technology, dubbed “Beer Board TV,” introduced two months ago by US Beverage Net, allowing bar owners to use their sets to promote specials on suds and showcase new brews.

Employing US Beverage Net’s system, QS&L sells video ad units to marketers such as Anheuser-Busch InBev, MillerCoors, Sam Adams and makers of regional beer brands.

So far, the ads have yielded promising results, with some QS&L locations reporting sales growth of as much as 30 percent for advertised brands.

Sharon, Pa.-based QS&L has also used the technology to promote menu items and encourage patrons to visit its Facebook page.

Mark Young, chief executive of US Beverage Net, expects other restaurateurs to follow QS&L’s lead. “It’s definitely going to open up the marketplace for us,” he said. “It’s a value-add to the core platform.”

More than just an ad vehicle, for the past four years the platform has also served up a slew of analytics, tracking wasted suds each time a bartender pulls from the tap. The monitoring system has helped McGrath drop his beer waste rate from 15 percent to 4 percent.

Taking into account the digital ads and the hopped-up ROI yield from reduced waste, the system paid for itself in three months, according to McGrath.

Joe Janaszek, who co-owns 13 Buffalo Wild Wings franchises on the West Coast that use US Beverage Net’s technology, is particularly drawn to another feature: its Web-based inventory stats.

The feature informs the owner how much of a particular brand he or she has purchased, how much has been inventoried and how much has been sold.

“I can tell beer vendors that if their beer is near the bottom of our sales, they need to help us with a sampling event or a promotion,” Janaszek said.

While bartenders might feel threatened by the technology—possibly being scrutinized for their beer-pouring talents, or lack thereof—Janaszek argued that it might actually save them from sore backs and tired feet.

The system “tells you that you have a half a keg left of Blue Moon,” he explained. “You don’t have to go to the back room any more, lift the keg and shake it to see how much is still in there.”

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