Project Brief

Pour Secure (http://poursecure.com/) was developing smart, connected pour spouts to help bars track inventory. Their plan was for a companion mobile app to send bar managers real-time notifications of any sales discrepancies in real time.

I worked with a colleague for three weeks conducting primary user research and testing with the goal of providing usability and interaction design recommendations for near-term and future functionality in the form of low-fidelity wireframes, prototypes, and information architecture.

The client had an aim to have the smart spouts communicate directly with smartphones and tablets, though in general much of the technology behind the product had yet to be decided on.

We knew the bar and beverage industry was not one monolith that could be easily summarized so we dove as fast as possible into researching the bartending field and the existing products and services in the inventory management space.

Existing Products

Our client stated the intended customers were chain restaurants like TGI Friday’s and Buffalo Wild Wings. With that in mind we started looking at any inventory solutions they currently employed, as well as methods and products that are used by other types of bars and restaurants. We divided the competitive landscape into five categories.

Current primary competitors

On-bottle “smart”-spouts

The most direct competitors are the existing on-bottle smart spouts. They exist in two kinds. Spouts that allow for free pouring of liquor, reporting the data afterward, and spouts that require an activator ring to allow a preset volume to be poured. Almost all include a robust data collection and sales analytics. Competitors include Capton, Bar Vision, and some EasyBar products.

case-study Capton's smart spout
Liquor control systems

A much more costly solution to managing inventory is a liquor control system. Liquor guns dispense the correct amount through tubing from a back room where all the bottles reside. Liquor service stations are an additional step that completely removes the need for a bartender. The station automatically dispenses all the ingredients of a drink in the measured amounts. Competitors include Berg and some EasyBar products.

case-study Easy Bar's liqour gun

Indirect competitors

Inventory management systems

A much lower cost solution removes the active monitoring. Employees use inventory management systems on smart devices to record inventory at best at the end of each day, sometimes just weekly or monthly, since these systems are reliant on direct manpower. With the proliferation of smart devices, this is a fast growing category, replacing some establishments pen and paper system. Some products have users eyeball the amount of liquid left in bottles, while some solutions use hardware like scales to calculate the inventory. Some bars outsource this type of inventory tracking. Competitors include Partender, Bevspot, Accubar, and Bevinco.

case-study Partender's mobile app
Analytical software

By linking up with the point of sale system, Trakbar calculates the inventory sold and remaining, offering weekly and monthly projections, smart ordering, and performance recommendations. Attention to spillage and theft is completely missing from this solution.

case-study Trakbar
Low tech solutions - Indirect competitors

On the far end of the competitive landscape are traditional no-tech solutions such as using jiggers and shot glasses to measure pours. Extremely low cost and easily accessible, they allows for precision and accuracy, but are easy to circumnavigate, can slow down bartenders, and cannot be consistently monitored by bar managers. Another solution in this category is the Exacto-Pour, a tool to train and test bartender pouring skills. TGI Friday’s uses them, having bartenders prove their pouring skill at the beginning of each shift, after which they are allowed to free pour for customers at the bar and use jiggers for drinks going out to the restaurant floor.

case-study Exacto-Pour

As we did this research on existing product we started to wonder, if some of these on-bottle smart spouts have been around for more than a decade, why aren’t they that popular. We could find very little evidence of any noticeable adoption of these expensive systems, save for one corner of the beverage selling industry. Casinos nationwide were the main customer for smart spouts and liquor control systems.

Insights from bar owners and managers

We spoke with bar owners and managers to learn about their needs and frustrations, and to become more knowledgeable about bartending all together. They gave us a great introduction to the inner workings of running a bar and bartending. Though there are vast differences between the many types of bars, we did find trends emerge.

● The business exists because of customers.

● Customer satisfaction means focusing on consistency, not waste.

● There isn’t a need for granular inventory tracking and predictive ordering.

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Defining the opportunity

So what is needed? Many managers and owners we talked didn’t profess a need for a robust on-bottle inventory management. What could we do for owners, managers, and bartenders to make their work easier?

Pour Secure started with the idea that bar managers needed and desired more detailed and accurate inventory tracking.

Our research pointed to a different need.

Good customer experience is paramount to the viability of a bar. Inconsistent service and products destroy customers’ experiences. Bar managers need a way to focus on consistency to have high customer satisfaction and profits.

In attempting to design a solution for this problem, we defined four principles which would help us make decisions.

Patron-first

Most solutions for bars only save money. But bars make money from customers. No solution should be detrimental to the customer experience.

Account for the busiest times

Bar managers’ greatest need for solutions is when they have the least amount of time.

Proactive, not antagonistic

Work environment has a big impact on other aspects of the bar business. The bartender is not the enemy. Frame the solution to be for the benefit of everyone.

Actionable results

Managers shouldn’t have to interpret results from a product they pay for. Give them direction for exactly how they should improve their business.

Our proposed scope

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Given the information we collected from our research and interviews, we found that Pour Secure's original intent was to occupy an already crowded space. We saw a greater chance for Pour Secure by reframing some of its goals.

Not finding the greatest opportunity where we initially looked, we worked with the client to refocus our efforts. Bar managers want their bartenders to exercise consistency - this is what keeps customers happy and coming back. What if there were a way to use Pour Secure’s existing technology to help bartenders stay on track with pours, without constant policing and micromanaging?

There are two ways to solve the problem bar managers have:

● Focus on the uniformity between pours and recipes

● Validate training out of the customers’ view, which will deliver consistency without damaging the customers’ perception of the drink making

Concepts

My colleague and I explored these two concepts and created prototypes to present to managers and owners, seeing which concepts resonated with them and they saw useful.

Employee Engagement

How does it work?

Bar managers told us that the key to success is to provide customers with great, consistent experiences.

What’s the best way to do that?

Great bartenders who are talented and knowledgeable.

How could Pour Secure help bartenders be better?

1. Train new bartenders and build up muscle memory for accurate pours

2. Allow experienced bartenders to quickly brush up and prove their skill

3. Test bartenders’ recipe knowledge

Actionable data analytics

How does it work?

We found bar managers did not have a need for the most extreme granular inventory tracking. They wanted information they could act up.

How can smart spouts best be used to help bar managers improve their businesses?

Identify patterns and present and deliver specific actionable recommendations.

What can Pour Secure identify?

1. Inconsistent pours by bottle, bartender or time period

2. Recipe execution

3. Highlight the work of the best bartenders

Testing employee engagement

"I think you need to train [new bartenders] in the beginning, and then refresh every few months."

Our initial testers confirmed that actually practicing pours was the best way for a bartender to learn.

Having a tool that would help this process without having to deal with the hassle of measuring with specific vessels would be more efficient.

"There’s a lot of inconsistency in pours. One of the top complaints is, “why can’t you guys make my drink perfectly?” Recipes need to be exact every time, but sometimes people just do whatever and it’s really inconsistent."

Some of our users expressed concern regarding consistency with pours, as well as recipe execution.

This validated our research from Sprint 1: there needs to be uniformity between pours AND recipes.

We decided to incorporate the idea of practicing recipe execution in our next concept iteration.

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Concept design
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Revision
Testing actionable data analytics

This is a lot of information for one page. The data titles can be more clear, and there could be more hierarchy.

Users were led to focus on the numbers and ended up thinking about dollar amounts, but that wasn’t as useful to them. They really wanted actionable insights.

"Well, I want to see what the problem is. Why aren’t they pouring the right, same amounts?""

We changed from a primarily numerical driven overview to a more graphic interface.

Bar managers could still see if they were on track, but it was more glanceable and less focused on the numbers.

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Concept design
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Revision

Usability Testing and Revisions

"Well, I want to see what the problem is. Why aren’t they pouring the right, same amounts?"

This is a lot of information for one page. The data titles can be more clear, and there could be more hierarchy.

Users were led to focus on the numbers and ended up thinking about dollar amounts, but that wasn’t as useful to them. They really wanted actionable insights.

At establishments with training and testing procedures in place, a digital product can ease the workload the bar managers have.

Present synthesized data, but have the more raw data available deeper in the product for users that want to lift the hood.

By pairing skill-building exercises with data analytics, Pour Secure can make the recommendations bar managers need to positively improve their businesses.

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Testing Prototype
Homescreen

Users placed importance around alerts and problems

Lowered visual priority of banner items

Clearer visual impact around the alerts because users told us that’s what they care about the most

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Final Verison
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Testing Prototype
Drinks

Users wanted slightly more details

Revised language gives the user a better sense of where the info came from and order to the list.

Specified the pour accuracy percentage instead of just having a purely graphic display.

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Final Verison
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Testing Prototype
Test Preparation

Users struggled to know what were they supposed to do on this page.

To improve visual priority, text moved and changed in size.

Users see what step they are on with a progress.

Icons give a better clue to reinforce what’s required.

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Final Verison

App Architecture

App Map
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