The Internet of Beer: Analyzing Beer Consumption with IoT Sensors

August 30 2017

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iot bww beer

Buffalo Wild Wings (BWW) – one of the top 10 fastest-growing restaurants in the U.S. – had one goal: to create a compelling restaurant experience for their customers. But in the modern retail world, this goal proved difficult as today’s customers expect a personalized experience.

For BWW, a dynamic sports bar that is the largest pourer of draft beer in America, personalization starts with meeting customer demands for local and regional craft beers. With the craft beer phenomenon, beer variety continued to explode at both corporate and franchised BWW restaurant locations, with most locations needing to offer 24-32 beers on tap to satisfy customer preferences.

As Dave Lenzen, Director of Enterprise Applications and Data Services at BWW, reveals, “We knew we needed to offer a compelling experience to get customers in our door. But with personalization came more costs, and in the low-margin business of restaurants we need to ensure we weren’t sacrificing profits.” How could BWW ensure there was the right beer variety at the right location? And do so in an operationally efficient manner?

Leveraging technology, BWW turned to the Internet of Things (IoT) to accurately track beer consumption. By using IoT flow sensors and MuleSoft, BWW began accurately predicting preferences and optimizing inventory planning.

BWW’s IoT solution, which gathers data from multiple applications and systems, is at the center of the personalized beer experience. The solution is comprised of:

  • The flow sensor, which is responsible for measuring the flow of beer. There are multiple remote sensors on the taps at BWW outlets  
  • Beerboard, the beer management system that monitors and captures pour data
  • The POS database, which contains sales data
  • MuleSoft, the integration platform, enabling real-time inventory data

Beerboard funnels beer flow data from its flow sensors to MuleSoft’s Anypoint Platform, where managers can compare sales information with beer flow. MuleSoft underpins their integration strategy that connects the flow sensors, Beerboard, and the POS database through web services APIs.

This connection is enabled by MuleSoft’s Anypoint Platform and API-led connectivity, an integration approach that connects these three systems by connecting them through modern, managed APIs. For this project, BWW exposed data and applications using a number of APIs, including:

  • CreateTicket API – Allows external parties (such as the manager of a restaurant) to request a new ServiceNow ticket be generated for a new beer request. In this request, information such as the brewery, beer name, style of beer and the restaurant requesting the beer are passed as a JSON message
  • SendTicketStatus API – Hosted by BeerBoard, receives the status of a beer request as it moves from ‘pending’ to ‘approved’
  • SalesData API – Allows external parties (restaurant managers, for example) to request beer sales for a specific location over a specified period of time
  • CreateItem API – Automatically creates a new item record in the company’s master data management system. In this request, required item information such as a PLU number, an item name, and item descriptors are passed as a JSON message
  • Location Hierarchy API – Web-service provides external parties with restaurant location as well as hierarchy information. Using this information, BeerBoard can then route a beer request by contacting the listed emails to obtain required approvals

By connecting these APIs, the restaurant chain can display the information through a dashboard that provides managers with a real-time view of when a glass of beer was sold, the amount that was bought, the amount that was sold, and the amount that was lost, if any.

buffalo wild wings mulesoft

Buffalo Wild Wings’ BeerBoard SmartBar

These insights enable BWW to gain a better understanding of their beer inventory and, in turn, improve the customer experience; what used to take the general manager days to report can now be seen within hours. Important to the low-margin restaurant business, this valuable data also reduces the amount of beer lost to theft or overly-generous pours.

In an interview with CIO.com, the CIO of Buffalo Wild Wings, Santiago Abraham, hailed the solution: “franchisees love it because being able to look at what was poured versus sold is huge. There’s a lot of activities that you can get insights on to determine whether you’ve got a bar that is running an effective beer operation.”

With an IoT-solution powered by MuleSoft and API-led connectivity, BWW is meeting customer demands while operating efficiently. BWW will continue its digital transformation journey––from enabling online ordering through the BWW website to supporting delivery with DoorDash and other third-parties; and as said by Dave Lenzen, Buffalo Wild Wings relies on the partnership with MuleSoft to make it all happen.

Learn more about how API-led connectivity is helping Buffalo Wild Wings build the restaurant of the future.


 


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