One Blog |July 10, 2017 | Line Cleaning Software

Beer and Wine Tap Line Cleaning – The Need for Best Practices

Mark Fullerton

BackgroundBeer and Wine Tap Line Cleaning – The Need for Best Practices

It’s been nearly two years since we brought LineTrak™ to market.

LineTrak is a smartphone 'app' that helps beverage alcohol distributor track and manage both line cleaning and tap handle surveying activites.

The core features and functions were defined by our customers and prospects and their requirements were the inspiration behind the development of LineTrak.

LineTrak continues to grow and change based on feedback from our users. We’ve added some important new features, notably the Tap Handle Survey function, and improved the underlying programs to improve their efficiency. This translates to a system that responds very rapidly to the needs of beer and wine wholesalers who are held accountable for meeting supplier, as well as state and local standards.

Beverage Alcohol Industry - Things Are Changing

There have also been significant changes in the beverage alcohol landscape during the past two years.

We’ve seen literally hundreds of new, craft breweries come on-line. These new breweries – as well as those of Big Beer – become eager to ratchet-up their obsession with getting the freshest, best-tasting product to the consumers of the product. 

With the ending of the Great Recession, we’ve also seen tap-wine grow from a notion to a reality, especially in restaurants all across the country who have been enjoying something of a growth spurt as customers continued to be on an up-swing of dining out.

OnTrak is now at a point where thousands of restaurants, bars and pubs across the country are having their draught line cleanings scheduled, tracked and reported on using our distributor-designed product, LineTrak.

Due to these changes it might be important to revisit the challenges presented to every beverage alcohol supplier and every distributor and on-premise retailer.

The Need for Best Practices

According to DraughtQuality.org:

  • “The number one factor affecting draught beer quality is poor hygiene. Whether you’re a brewer, wholesaler or retailer, you must be vigilant in making sure lines are cleaned properly and regularly. Poor hygiene and improper cleaning and/or rinsing will result in loss of sales and reflects poorly on the entire industry.”

Additionally, there can be legal consequences associated with not cleaning or improperly cleaning draught beer lines, to say nothing of the potential health issues.

Dirty draught lines – either beer or wine – do not paint a pretty picture, both literally and financially for beer and wine companies, be they suppliers, distributors or retailers.

About Beer On Tap

According to Anheuser-Busch’s “Beertender Guide”, on-premise beer draught lines need to be cleaned on a regular basis to prevent flavor deterioration.

In some cases, this requirement comes from the distributor’s primary supplier; from retailers; from state and regulatory bodies, or from the distributor’s own business “best-practices”.

In some states, such as Ohio and New York, the local board of health requires the retail establishment to clean their draught lines, however, there is no regulation preventing the retailer from having the cleaning performed by a third-party.

Other states, Texas, for example, require the wholesale distributor to clean the lines. In many states, distributors offer draught line cleaning to their retail customer in order to gain competitive advantage and retain customers. 

Regardless of the reasons behind performing tap line cleaning, the consensus is that beer draught lines must be cleaned at least 26 times per year, or a minimum of every two weeks. 

About Wine On Tap

According to “Try Wine on Tap’s Best Practices Guide” lines with wine flowing through them need to be cleaned every thirteen weeks (4 times per year) or when the product changes. 

For many beverage alcohol distributors, line-cleaning is their responsibility. For all distributors, line cleaning – regularly and correctly performed – certainly is, or at least should be, their concern.

The Consequences 

Our customers, particularly in states where draught lines are inspected by the governing Boards of Health, tell us that they’ve come to the conclusion that dirty draught lines, created by cleaning lines less frequently than “Best Practices” dictate, don’t save money – they cost sales.

For example, should a patron take a big gulp of dirty beer (or as one distributor called it “chunky-skunky beer”) or “off-tasting wine,” you could have a law suit on your hands.

In case I haven’t made the case for clean lines based on some rather unattractive outcomes, know that clean draught lines help your beer and wine keep its taste and looks.

Also, clean lines actually will reduce waste by virtually eliminating re-pours to unhappy or grossed-out patrons.

So, there’s the problem and the opportunity.

Line Cleaning – Scheduling, Tracking and Management

Among the top challenges a distributor faces, is that while they may have put in place a line cleaning process, they really don’t have a good solution to answer the questions associated with scheduling:

  • What should happen and when?

And those questions associated with tracking:

  • What actually happened, or perhaps even if it did happen, and if so did it happen on schedule? 

This challenge and these questions are the same regardless of whether the distributor does the line cleaning with their own people, or outsources the line cleaning to a third party.

LineTrak – The Basis for Best Practices

In July of 2015, right before the launch of LineTrak, we asked: 

  • “What if there was a solution for keeping track of all the activities that are required to effectively and efficiently manage all of the line cleaning requirements that come from suppliers, retailers, and state regulations?”
  • “Or what if you want to put a “best practices” approach in place within your own distribution business to service your customer’s expectations?”

At that time LineTrak hadn’t yet been launched, but in the ensuing two years, LineTrak was not only launched but has been become a best practice for some of the most successful and largest distributors in the country.

LineTrak is much more than a product that facilitates the adoption of Best Practices. To learn more please read on:

What Is LineTrak?

  • A solution that allows both the distributors and retailers to keep track of the line cleaning schedule, including a check-list indicating that every line-cleaning step required has been completed. This goes a long way to ensure the retailer’s customers are always served the freshest and best tasting beer and wine possible.
  • A system that lets suppliers, distributors, on-premise retailers and their patrons to know the status of the “draught-transport system” they rely upon to guarantee them their best and freshest beer and wine taste possible.
  • A program that allows suppliers to easily and conveniently monitor their distributors for greater accountability in regards to the many aspects of the distributor’s operations; including the actual draught delivery systems present at the on-premise consumption retail locations.
  • A tracking system that allows supplier representatives, during a routine ride-along, to see evidence at on-premise locations that their distributors are complying with their “best-taste” and “fresh-beer and wine” guidelines.
  • A line cleaning log that is kept by the distributor and readily available at the retailer’s location would, for most suppliers, become a fundamental requirement for the distributor to retain the rights to distribute their products.
  • A tap-handle survey tool that allows distributors to monitor what’s flowing through their customers’ draught lines to better enable them to see their competitors’ efforts to shave their market-share and for them to stay on top of potential opportunities for additional market-share.

To see these features and benefits LIVE, please click >> Request A Demo.

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