Bar owners are no strangers to the need for charging options in their venues, and luckily, there are a slew of options to choose from. The value of offering charging is clear—retaining happy customers and increased check sizes—but many of today’s charging solutions go beyond these benefits.
We took a look at three companies that offer energy savings, conveniences for customers and staff, and even advertising screens in addition to the service of charging. Not to mention, all three solutions enable customers to keep their phones on them, and hopefully, promote your food, drinks, and service through social media.
Voltek: Energy Savings
Voltek (formerly known as 2Wire Technologies) offers a unique low-voltage charging solution. Available in both powerbox and wall mount formats, the USB charging outlets require no more than a simple low-voltage cable and can be mounted just about anywhere.
“Voltek USB outlets are powered from a remote power supply located in a back closet or behind the bar,” explains Lee Snedaker, Owner of Voltek. “DC power is then delivered over a simple low voltage cable to each outlet location. Voltek USB outlets do not require the use of an AC to DC power converter (wall wort) so all a customer needs is a charging cable.”
Additionally, power supplies with an optional battery backup provide several hours of power and charge time in the event of a power outage.
Installation of Voltek’s products is simple and doesn’t require a licensed electrician or any expensive electrical cabling. While the company doesn’t offer installation, it will recommend a contractor if one is needed.
Wall mounts are typically used in new construction since the wiring can be completed while the walls are still open. Snedaker says the surface mount powerbox option, which is mounted underneath the bar, is what most bars use when retrofitting charging solutions. “The surface mounts are a much better retrofit option and a really cost-effective solution,” he says. “You might drill a hole to get some cables to the backside of the bar, but for the most part, everything is mounted underneath the bar.”
Snedaker recommends adding one dual USB outlet per two bar stools when placed under a bar or at a table.
He also says the outlets are great for use not just in the front of the house, but the back of the house as well. “Several Voltek customers have added outlets to their back of house for different reasons. Tablet-based POS systems can be powered from USB outlets, and because our system can be powered from a battery backup in the event of a power outage, the POS system will stay up for several hours allowing for additional sales,” says Snedaker. “Plus, with AC outlets being used for kitchen equipment, we hear complaints about those devices getting unplugged so an employee can charge a device. By adding Voltek outlets for a very minimal cost, the employees can now have dedicated charging locations for personal devices.”
At the back of house, Voltek recommends adding a couple of outlets behind the bar, one in the office, and several around the kitchen for convenience. When used in conjunction with POS systems, Voltek recommends placing them at every tablet location where an order might need to be viewed.
These outlets may be low-voltage, but that doesn’t mean they lack the necessary power. “Most AC outlets do not provide QC 2.0 or USB-C PD fast charging or increased voltage charging abilities built into them. Voltek outlets contain both technologies that provide the latest in fast-charging capabilities to many of today’s phones, tablets, and laptops,” says Snedaker. “Our outlets can deliver up to 45 watts of power—fulfilling the needs of most of today’s higher technology devices.”
Voltek’s charging options go beyond just providing the right amount of power—they also help bars save on energy and install costs. “By using a low-voltage powered solution such as Voltek, customers are reducing the amount of raw plastic and copper in an installation by up to 65%. Most of today’s mobile devices have no need for AC electrical outlets and can be powered by either a USB-A / USB-C outlet. Voltek can save a customer up to 75% on material costs versus a traditional AC outlet installation and 50% on labor savings versus using a licensed electrician for an install,” says Snedaker. “Also, by converting AC power to DC at the power supply source, we offer less wasted energy loss during conversion by doing this step one time.”
With a switch to USB-C outlets on the horizon, Voltek will soon be rolling out a product featuring the new outlet type. “We’re coming out with a new surface mount and a new wall plate that’s one USB Type A and one USB Type C, and the Type C is a much higher power availability to charge laptops and bigger power-consuming items,” says Snedaker. “It’s where the technology shift is headed.”
OneStone: Screens & Sales
The OneStone Hub Phone Charger and Digital Advertiser Table Tent offers the dual solution of a charging solution and a sales tool for your venue.
The OneStone Hub is a dual-screen, Wi-Fi-controlled, 40,000-milliamp device that gives bar owners the option to advertise in HD—replacing the need for paper table tents (which need to be repeatedly printed) with a dynamic digital solution. The high-capacity batteries in the Hub allow the advertising to run and customers to charge their phones all day, and staff only needs to recharge the Hub at night.
On the screens, OneStone recommends bar owners feature drink and food specials, special events, or anything they want to draw attention to. “If they’re really smart, they will promote the appetizer that has the highest margin and quickest turnaround for their kitchen, and they’ll really promote the alcohol that has the highest margin or that they’re getting the best deal from their vendors for,” says David Schooley, Chief Business Development & Marketing at OneStone. “We’re getting reports back from our venue partners that every time they feature something new on there, they see a 15%-plus, sometimes up to 30%, increase in sales of that particular item or special.”
Schooley says two things contribute to this high conversion rate. One, people are visual and what they see, they want—especially if it’s featured on something as dynamic as digital signage. “Engagement and interactivity in digital is actually much higher than on print,” says Schooley. “People are starting to just ignore the prints, and digital is engaging—you can have moving graphics, you can have it change, and you can do more.”
Secondly, by providing someone with a solution like charging for free, the bar owner is creating a feeling of goodwill. “When you give someone something for free, they respond more positively,” says Schooley. “It makes them more open to whatever they see on that device. They now have a connection to the advertising showing on the same device that’s giving them something free.”
OneStone customers can opt to lease or purchase the devices and completely control their ad content.
Or, customers can choose a shared program, where OneStone offers 50% off the lease. Customers get 10 slides for their own advertising or for advertising they want to sell to third parties, and OneStone controls another 10 slides that they sell to non-competing advertisers.
Bar owners control the advertising on the screens through Wi-Fi, so the creative can be uploaded and scheduled from anywhere through the content management system. This is ideal for owners with multiple locations who can now control advertising across all venues.
OneStone has even started offering owners the ability to use the content management system to control advertising on other screens in their venues, like TVs. “Our content management system that manages the advertising on the screens is enterprise, world-class level. We can manage screens anywhere from wall displays to floor displays,” says Schooley. “Where most digital signage companies change anywhere from $20-30 per screen, per month to run ads, we only charge $30 per venue up to 50 screens. Now they can have one log-in for running all of their advertising on their Hubs, and start running advertising on TVs.”
To try the system, Schooley recommends owners buy a 12-pack of the Hubs and place them at every four to six stools on the bar, or on the tables most frequently occupied. And because they’re doublesided, there’s no need to worry about them facing a certain way.
Owners looking to make a bigger commitment can place devices on every table. “If they want to reduce the clutter on the table and reduce their carbon footprint by replacing their printed table tents, then obviously they want them on every table,” says Schooley. “Putting them on 50 tables in a large bar gets a little bit more expensive, but I would challenge them to compare their sales, their uptick in conversions, and their uptick in extra rounds of drinks because of the charging—it massively offsets it.”
The Chargique™ Charging System enables USB charging for cell phones while also providing a sturdy hook for personal items such as a bag or purse. “One power supply, requiring only one outlet, can power up to 12 of these individual hooks/USB charging devices,” says Robert Tuffy, Manager and Co-Founder of Chargique. “The devices are located in an out-of-the-way place underneath the bar counter. They can be mounted either on the front face of the bar or under the bar top, using our optional mounting bracket.
“It frees the bartender from the annoyance and liability of charging requests and keeps phones and personal items off seats, bar tops, and the floor. It also promotes repeat business when customers know that they can get a charge while they are out and about.”
Chargique™ provides a detailed Installation and Usage Guide along with a mounting template with every order. Chargique™’s system is ideal for new construction and is also an easy retrofit option. “Customers have done either every seat or every other seat,” says Tuffy. “Peak activity levels of the bar are the key determinant for the number of devices.”
By choosing a USB charging option versus a traditional 120-volt outlet, bar owners save on power capacity in their electrical panel. And while this charging option helps retain customers, it also helps with turnover, which is just as important. “120-volt outlets also encourage an element that most bartenders prefer to avoid—the laptop on the bar as the customer sets up office,” says Tuffy. “This office activity will reduce turnover and sales in addition to being an irritant to other customers.”
This charging option is also beneficial because it provides multiple levels of security—it keeps the phone in the customer’s possession and it keeps data secure. “Chargique terminates data lines, thus preventing data transfer,” says Tuffy. “With the Chargique™ Charging System, USB data lines are terminated to preclude any attack through our charging system. Furthermore, individual charging stations are connected only by power cables—preventing any data transfer between modules.”
By Ashley Bray
Photos (top to bottom): Voltek, OneStone, Chargique.