COPLEY — Antonio's Real Italian Pizza is hoping people like to pour their own beer.
The family-run business, which has 16 locations throughout Northeast Ohio, is launching a new concept in Copley called the BrewWall, a pizzeria and taproom that will feature a large wall containing 50 self-serve taps of craft beer and other beverages.
Yes, that's self-serve, as in the customers will serve themselves.
"The whole restaurant is designed around the tap wall," co-owner Vince LoSchiavo said. "We are pretty excited about it."
The pour-your-own beverage system will be the first of its kind in the Akron area, he said.
Self-serve beer systems have been around for years at bars, eateries and even sports stadiums, but they are still unusual. Some use cards to monitor usage, while others, like the one at the BrewWall, use wristbands.
Here's how it will work at the BrewWall: Customers will be greeted by a "tapologist" — a term Antonio's made up — and have their credit cards linked to a wristband. They will then be able to pour their own beer and pay based on the ounces that they drink.
One of the biggest problems in the bar and restaurant business is customers waiting for a drink. With the self-serve taps, that's not an issue.
"You don't have to wait," LoSchiavo said. "When you want a drink, you walk right up to the tap and pour yourself another drink."
There are other advantages. Customers don't have to tip a bartender, for example. They also can sample different beers without paying for an entire glass. Want a taste? Just pour a couple of ounces. Don't like it? Move onto another beer.
The restaurant-bar benefits because the system cuts down on waste and there aren't free samples handed out. The business also is able to collect data on customers through their credit card use.
Serving yourself a beer while out on the town is seen by some as … well … entertaining.
"Part of it is that it's fun," said Bret Thorn, a senior food editor with the trade publication Nation's Restaurant News. "That's an increasingly important part of any kind of hospitality experience. People are so happy to stay at home. They have all of their things delivered, whether that's clothing or electronics or food. It's all delivered to them. So to get people to put on their shoes and walk out the door, you have to deliver something that's fun and attractive."
Thorn said most self-serve beer systems are set up to monitor to make sure someone isn't drinking too much.
The craft beers will be priced the same as any other bar and restaurant, and there will be no surcharge for using the pour-your-own taps, LoSchiavo said.
The BrewWall, which is under construction now, is one of several businesses going into a new retail plaza on Heritage Center Drive just off state Route 18 and across the street from the Cleveland Clinic Akron General Health & Wellness Center. The hope is that the restaurant, which will seat nearly 200 and include an outdoor patio, will open in April.
Antonio's released a concept video online earlier this month.
"Our concept is all about respecting craft. That's our slogan. Respect the craft," LoSchiavo said.
The BrewWall, which also will have an Antonio's Pizza, will focus on craft beer and soda. There will be no Bud Light or Miller, for example, he said.
The craft focus will extend to the pizza. The BrewWall will offer some different pizzas from current Antonio's locations, such as brick oven-style pies. Customers also will order at a counter and be handed a craft beer tap handle so their food can be brought to the right table, LoSchiavo said.
Antonio's, which was founded in 1967, chose Copley for a couple of reasons, including the feeling that local residents are "early adapters" who will embrace the pour-your-own technology, LoSchiavo said. He added that, selfishly, the location also is near his home and he plans to spend a lot of time at the BrewWall to make sure it's a success.
"I know that I'm going to be living at this restaurant," he said.
Rick Armon can be reached at 330-996-3569 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @armonrickABJ.