How Eastern Market Upped Customer Experience Despite Staff Shortage

At first blush, Dayne Bartscht wasn’t thrilled with the idea of self-service taps. Then he tried one.

A founding partner of Eastern Market Brewing in Detroit, Bartscht and fellow founder Paul Hoskin walked into a self-service craft beer bar in Florida a few years back without knowing the layout of the place and it started the brewery owners down the path of opening Lincoln Tap in Royal Oak, Michigan this fall.

“That Florida experience was pretty eye-opening for me,” he said. “When I heard self-serve, I thought about automation. I just thought of this rigid experience where you go try your beer, and you’re done.

“…We walked in, and the host was amazing. She walked us through everything. That was an awesome customer experience. And all sudden, it dawned on me, you can still create that customer experience. You need fewer people to do it, which is cool. But also her job was literally just to be welcoming, she didn’t have to worry about anything else.”

​That realization means it frees up your staff to be able to focus on what’s most important to Bartscht​ and his Eastern Market team.

“Telling our story, talking about our brand, knowing our product​,” he said of what his taproom manager and fellow employee on shift will be able to do.

​“​In this current day and age where we’re constantly hiring​ —​ especially with having three locations​ — it’s hard to be continuously training people and teaching them​,” he said. “We put out so many different beers ​… we need to do a better job of educating our staff.

​“​The more staff we have, the harder it is to do. To be able to have this experience, we’re never really going to need more than two people staffed at a given time. So we can make sure they really know our product.​“​

The State of Michigan just passed a bill in 2022 that allowed the technology to be used at bars and breweries and​ Eastern Market got to work on adding the equipment to its newest location — which is the brewery’s new headquarters and production facility after moving into the former home of Roak Brewing.​

The​ remodeled taproom and showcase for both Eastern Market and its sister company, Ferndale Project, along with other ventures that the brewery partners with will include a​ self-serve tap wall system ​with a rotating selection of beers, plus wine and cold brew coffee. ​Consumers can explore details for each product on ​​touchscreens above the taps and pour as much or as little as they please​, up to 16 ounces per pour and a total of 32 ounces per visit.

RFID-enabled wristbands are used to activate the system and track the ounces.

​“From a compliance standpoint, I have no concerns about liability,” Bartscht said. “We’ll never be serving someone under 21 because this system requires you to have an ID. You scan the ID, then you scan a wristband and they are associated with each other.”

Each ounce is charged with tiered pricing, so something like the brewery’s Kolsch, Wunderboi, will be much cheaper per ounce than a heavily adjuncted and barrel-aged beer, which could be $1 per ounce.

“I think we saw the average pour is like four to five ounces,” Bartscht said. “Most people are coming in, they want to try new things.”

The 32 ounces is the cap by state law that you can consume at one time, and Bartscht said a consumer would have to go back to the host stand to get authorization to get more beer.

“They can see what you’ve been drinking,” Bartscht said. “They could be like, okay, this person just had 32 ounces of a 13% beer. You can add either 16 or 32 ounces back to the wristband or not.”​

The brewery uses 13 1/2 ounce tumblers as the biggest glassware in the taproom to help stave off overconsumption as well.

An intriguing part of this taproom addition is the data that will be generated by sales as well. Because IDs are scanned, Bartscht said that they will be able to associate sales data to multiple data points, including age, gender, and even zip code.

“I’m a data nerd. We’ve been doing this for five years, but before this, I was obsessed with business analytics and data and I do feel like this is an opportunity for us to dig into that a little bit more,” he said. “Right now all we can really look at our sales data and say like, oh, cool, we’re in Meijer now. Elephant Juice NEIPA and Raspberry Gose are side-by-side and Elephant Juice is moving twice as fast. Let’s make more Elephant Juice.

“Now we can get to more of a micro level where you know a specific type of consumer is traveling here from this location and they’re preferring these beers, let’s go send that beer to wherever they are.​“

Photos courtesy Eastern Market Brewing

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