Automation is coming to drinking establishments. After spending a couple of days at the Nightclub and Bar Show, I am convinced that what is going on in Vegas is not staying in Vegas in terms of technology innovation. The robots are coming to a bar or club near you. Some are already there.
I "met" Jevo, the automated gelatin shot machine which eliminates mess and cuts down production time. Jevo can make up to 300 shots per hour, a task that would take humans about five hours. Plus, the quality of the shots are consistent. Like a coffee machine, it uses self-contained pods -- no messy and wobbly ingredients. Some busy bars serve as many as 15K shots per month.
Bbot is a robot server that delivers drinks and food via high-tech trays that travel on a ceiling track.
In addition to having a novelty factor, the system removes the challenge of waitstaff navigating a crowded bar or club. I suppose you won't need to tip either.
The industry is not yet ready for fully-automated establishments. The cost of the new technologies is prohibitive for your corner bar, which still may be working on installing a state-of-the-art POS (point of sale) system. However, many bars and clubs are using technology to manage costs and prevent human error. Berg, a company that has been developing hospitality automation for more than fifty years, just introduced Merlin, a wireless system that requires the bartender to wear a tracking bracelet that "talks" to bottles and monitors how much liquor the server is pouring. The system integrates with POS systems, so sales can be tracked down to the server level. The average bar today is is estimated to lose about 30% of sales due to lack of controls.
So, who is the bartender of the future?
"A real human being is still the catalyst for your evening," says Billy Giordano, Founder of StaffedUp, a web and social media system for finding bar staff. "The right type of person will continue to encourage you to order that next drink, help you pick the right cocktails, and to have a good time." Establishments have always looked for personality as well as mixing experience in hiring bartenders and, as robots take on more of the drink-making responsibilities, Giordano believes bartenders will be required to have sales skills rather than technical skills.
I didn't see any robot mixologists so I assume that creating the next exotic recipe will still be human-powered. And no one has invented a robot yet that will listen to you patiently as you cry into your beer and share your problems.