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DRINK DISPENSING MACHINE
CROSS REFERENCE TO RELATED
Not applicable. 5
STATEMENT REGARDING FEDERALLY
SPONSORED RESEARCH OR DEVELOPMENT
Not applicable. 10
REFERENCE TO MICROFICHE APPENDIX Not applicable.
BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION 15
1. Field of the Invention
The present invention relates to the field of beverage distribution, and more particularly to a computerized remote beverage distribution machine. 20
2. Description of Related Art
As can be seen by reference to the following U.S. Pat. Nos. 5,133,480; 5,198,976; 5,291,004; and 5,513,775, the prior art is replete with myriad and diverse drink dispensing machines. 25
While all of the aforementioned prior art constructions are more than adequate for the basic purpose and function for which they have been specifically designed, they are uniformly deficient with respect to their failure to provide a ^ simple, efficient, and practical drink dispensing machine.
As a consequence of the foregoing situation, there has existed a longstanding need for a new and improved drink dispensing machine and the provision of such a construction is a stated objective of the present invention. 35
BRIEF SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION
Briefly stated, the present invention provides a controlled self-service drink dispensing machine including a refrigerated piping network for transporting beverages, such as wine 40 and beer, from a central location to a plurality of remote dispensing consoles. A centrally located bartender terminal is electronically coupled to each of the remote dispensing consoles which are activated by magnetic credit/debit cards received in the remote consoles. A beverage transparent 45 plastic delivery tube in each remote console is bracketed by a light emitting diode transmitter and receiver system that is electronically coupled to the bartender terminal to alert the bartender of a low keg by sensing the amount of air and/or bubbles flowing through the delivery tube. 50
BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE SEVERAL
VIEWS OF THE DRAWINGS
These and other attributes of the invention will become more clear upon a thorough study of the following descrip- 55 tion of the best mode for carrying out the invention, particularly when reviewed in conjunction with the drawings, wherein:
FIG. 1 is a perspective view showing the drink dispensing gQ machine of the present invention installed at the bar and tables of a lounge;
FIG. 2 is a perspective view showing the central bartender terminal connected to one of the customer dispensing consoles; 65
FIG. 3 is a front elevational view of the dispenser;
FIG. 4 is a schematic showing the sensor assembly;
FIG. 5 is a front elevational sectional view of the beverage chill station;
FIG. 6 is a schematic showing the bartender terminal and the customer dispensing console; and
FIG. 7 is a schematic showing the operation of the drink dispensing machine.
DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE
As can be seen by reference to the drawings, and in particularly to FIG. 1, the drink dispensing machine that forms the basis of the present invention is designated generally by the reference number 1. The drink dispensing machine 1 is a creative new product which has the unique capability of allowing customers to purchase beer or wine via credit/debit cards at their table without having to go to the bartender.
Referring to FIG. 1, which provides the general overview of the drink dispensing machine, the computer terminal/ register has fixtures or attachments which allows attachment of the following parts: the beer keg for brand A, the wine bottle 4a, the beer keg for brand B, the beer keg for brand C, the stainless steel, insulated dispensing lines 10, the customer dispensing console 1, bar location 12, the customer dispensing console 2, bar location 14, the stainless steel dispensing lines routed to tables 16, the customer dispensing console 3, table location 18, the customer dispensing console 4, table location 20, and the customer dispensing console 5, table location 22.
FIG. 2 further illustrates in detail the technical relationship of the base frame computer terminal/register 2, and the liquid crystal display 24, the keyboard 26, the cash drawer 28, the key lock, cash drawer 30, the customer controlled dispensing console 12, the liquid crystal information display, customer console 34, the credit/debit card 35, the dispensing tat 36, the customer receipt, card printout 38, the liquid crystal display, liquor price per ounce 40, the beer wind/ availability indicators (LED's) 42, and the credit/debit card input slot 44.
Advantages of the drink dispensing machine include the following. Customers have the excitement and convenience of filling their own beer or wine refreshment. Less waitresses and waiters labor requires, resulting in increased profits. A pre-paid debit type card 35 is utilized that has the bar name/logo printed on it which provides free word-ofmouth advertising. Use of this type card saves labor at the bar as well. If money pre-paid on the card is not used due to the customer not returning, the remaining balance is considered profit. Reduction of employee theft (shrinkage). Control of customer alcohol intake via computer monitoring alerts the bartender.
The design of the drink dispensing machine 1 includes a customer controlled terminal 12, 14, 18, 20, 22, that provides the dispensing of selected brands of beer or wine at the table, and more particularly relates to a customer console which communicates with a bartender-controlled computer terminal/register 2 located behind the bar area. The machine 1 prevents the bartender from constantly refilling drinks, while also providing the customer with an easier way to get a fresh beer.
The machine 1 also provides an automated credit/debit card transaction at the table while inside the bar, speeding up sale transactions of liquor, beer or wine, while also allowing customers to not rely on a server, providing quicker service in obtaining their beer.
The machine 1 includes a centrally located computer terminal/register 2 that monitors at least one, and preferably,
many beer dispensers 12, 14, 18, 20, 22 for selective retrieval of beer sales information. The sale information collected and processed by the main computer 2 includes the amount of beer remaining in a keg, the amount of beer consumed at each table, the amount of beer consumed at 5 each table per card, the amount of beer consume at each table per hour, computer control of each table, on or off, and the price per ounce of the beer (changeable price per ounce by the bartender or bar owner). The central computer 2 communicates with the bartender permitting the bartender to selectively activate any one or all of the beer dispensing kegs, as well as one or more large bottles of wine. A remote customer controlled electronic console 12, 14, 18, 20, 22, located at the bar or table, works in conjunction with the associated beer dispensing keg 4, 6, 8, or wine bottle 4a, and communicates with the central terminal 2 in order to permit 15 a customer to provide collateral by way of credit/debit card 35. This action enables the selected keg by the customer at a location remote from the central computer terminal/ register 2. The customer-controlled console includes a credit/debit card reader which obtains credit/debit card 20 information via the central computer/modem in order to verify the credit/debit status of the card the customer is using for collateral. A push-button control and display device is included on the customer console that permits the customer to select an individual brand of beer by activating the keg for 25 that brand of beer.
To one side of the central computer 2 a series of beer taps one for each beer keg serve to prime the "head" out of each keg and prepare the beer inside the keg for a patron's consumption. As best shown in FIG. 4, the counter-mounted 30 beer taps 46 are of standard pull down design and incorporate a center rod 48 of clear plastic leading directly from the tap and being illuminated by a bulb 49. The taps also have the ability to dispense wine. Surrounding the illuminated rod 48 is a length of clear plastic tubing 50 coiled along the rod 35 surface. Both the rod 48 and tubing 50 are sheathed in a broad tube of transparent plastic 51. Leading from the top of each individual keg is a line connecting the keg and counter mounted taps to a dispensing station mounted on each patron's table. Located along the midpoint of each line a 40 rectangular container 52 made from foam insulation serves to insulate a length of pipe 54 made from stainless steel over which the beer or wine line 56 is wrapped. A layer of crushed ice 58 fills the container 52 and may be refilled by opening a top mounted lid 60 to gain access to the inside contents. 45 Each beer keg or bottle has a corresponding table mounted tap utilizing a design similar to the one incorporated in the counter mounted taps and an overhanging spigot style dispenser. Along one point of the feed line 50 surrounding the illuminated clear plastic rod 48, the table mounted taps 50 would utilize a light emitting diode (LED) transmitter 62 and receiver 64 system which is wired to the central computer 2 and serves to alert the bartender of a low keg by measuring the amount of air and/or bubbles flowing through the tube 50. 55
The machine 1 includes a number of beer dispensing kegs, each having several separate beer dispensing lines to allow variety for different brands and types of beer. The machine 1 consists of a bartender-controlled computer terminal/ register positioned behind the bar, and a customer-controlled 60 console either located at individual tables or in locations at the bar. A twisted pair cable which runs below the bar to the individual stations provides digital communication between the console and the customer-controlled console. A second cable connects the console to the telephone line modem 65 connection to the credit card company for transmission and receipt of credit/debit card information.
The bartender-controlled computer terminal/register 2 of the machine 1 includes a receipt printer, a credit/debit card reader, a keyboard, and a visual display and keg control keyboard area. As mentioned, the bartender who may take cash or credit/debit cards for payment of beer dispensed from the kegs controls the console the customer-controlled console includes a credit/debit card reader, a push button, and a liquid crystal visual display. The customer controls the console in order to enable a selected brand of beer, which activates the valve for that keg of beer. The customer pulls or swipes his credit/debit card through the credit/debit card reader in order to provide collateral for dispensing the selected beer. The particular keg or brand of beer that the customer desires is activated by being keyed into the customer-controlled console by the customer.
The liquid crystal display device provides various visual communication instructions to the customer in order to aid him to properly activate and pay for a selected beer keg or wine bottle. In addition to the conventional credit/debit card, a customer may also purchase a card at the bar that allows money credits to be applied to the card. The customer simply pays the bartender money and that dollar amount is applied to the "in house" debit card. This addition to the system allows customers that do not own credit or debit cards to utilize the system effectively.
Each of the several customer controlled consoles communicates with the bartender's main computer console/ register in order to provide keg activation via a computer controlled valve system. The console serves to control the actual keg activation and credit/debit authorization, as well as instructing customers at the dispenser during the keg activation process. The customer is guided through the use of the console by a series of prompting messages displayed on a display screen before beer is accurately dispensed by the ounce. A series of red and green prompting lights will also assist in directing the customer. When in use, the customer will swipe his credit/debit card through the reader, and the card numbers will be conveyed to the bartender's computer console/register.
There the credit/debit card numbers are transmitted in a normal fashion via modem by the computer to the card authorization/verification service center as is conventionally done with all cards. If credit/debit approval is given by the service, usually a quick event, a set of red LED's which indicate that none of the taps will work will turn green, indicating to the customer final acceptance of their card. Included is further information for the customer providing instructions on the display screen to select a dispenser keg, type and brand of beer or wine desired, by using the provided push button console. His selection will be indicated to the bartender by indication in the display area of the bartender's console the bartender then will manually authorize the selected beer keg via the bartender's console. The bartender or bar owner has the capability to bypass this feature, allowing the customer to automatically enable the appropriate beer dispensing keg when properly selected by the customer. However, the interplay of the bartender in the activation process keeps the bartender appraised of active kegs for his subsequent completion of the sale. Automatic operation via the computer terminal is considered to be normal however.
The communication link between the customer's console and the bartender's computer/register is provided by means of conventional serial port, which includes a transmit cable and a receive cable. During conventional operation or idling mode, the customer console will display "INSERT CARD" in conjunction with a set of red LED's. A flashing arrow