Walk into Crave Hot Dogs and BBQ off Ga. 400 in Dawson County and you’ll see an interesting new phenomenon — customers with pint glasses in hand, sampling beers and other alcoholic beverages from the restaurant’s 18 tap, self-serve beer wall.
Recently approved by the Dawson County Board of Commissioners, Crave’s new self-serve tap wall is a unique way for customers over the age of 21 to try new beers from across the country in a fast-casual restaurant environment, according to Crave Dawsonville Co-Owner and Manager Dave Walker.
"What we're able to do with the beer wall is create something very different — where people, obviously they want to try," Walker said. "Right now with the explosion of micro-breweries and the different breweries and all that, there's a reason those have grown, and it's because people want to try something different."
The way that the new beer wall works is simple, Walker said. Customers come into the restaurant, buy their food and give an ID and credit card to the cashier. In return, the customer receives a card to activate the beer taps and a pint glass to drink from.
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From there, customers have up to 18 beer, wine, cider and other alcoholic beverage options to choose from, which can be dispensed from the wall of taps after being unlocked with a swipe of the card.
Display screens above each tap share info with the customers about the type of beer or wine they are consuming, the drink’s label, its alcoholic content and price per fluid ounce served.
Since the self-serve beer wall’s approval last week, Walker said they have seen an amazing response from the community and a healthy bump in sales.
"They love the idea, and I think that a lot of that is because they are on their own to try things now," he said.
For those concerned about the safety hazards of having alcohol flowing freely, Crave leaders say they have implemented a foolproof system that ensures only those over the age of 21 can access the beer wall and stops customers from drinking more than a reasonable amount.
According to Crave Hot Dogs and BBQ Founder Sal Rincione, the restaurant’s ID scanning system is about as secure as it can get, using the same technology the Transportation Security Administration uses to verify identities in airports.
Only people who have provided their ID and received a card to scan are able to use the beer wall and for anyone else, the beer wall will not pour anything, Rincione told the Dawson County Board of Commissioners at a meeting on July 15, 2021.
“We’ve put a lot of thought, time and effort in this system,” he said. “It is safer to go into a Crave to get a beer than any tavern because if you are tipping that bartender 5’s and 10’s, they are going to keep filling up that beer or liquor … doesn’t happen like that at Crave, you have 2 pints of beer and you are done.”
“We are not a place to get drunk. We are a family-friendly restaurant ... with an experience that we want to give to our guests,” he added.
That experience of being able to try and taste is what ultimately sets them apart from other fast-casual restaurants, and what brings customers back to Crave time after time, Walker said.
"First and foremost we're a fast-casual family restaurant," he said. "We want people to come in, and we want them to keep coming back because they enjoy the experience."