Startups Eager To Add Robot Bartenders To The Restaurant/Bar Experience
Robot bartenders are a novelty you might find in Las Vegas or other tourist-intensive places, but a number of startups want to make being served drinks via machine a more common experience in bars and restaurants.
The Italian startup Makr Shakr, for instance, unveiled its first robot bartender in 2013 for Google I/O, an annual developer conference. Its system of automated arms that shake, stir and garnish up to 120 cocktails an hour can now be found in Las Vegas, Biloxi, Mississippi, and on cruise ships, the Wall Street Journal reports.
Another device that rolled out a few years ago, Monsieur, can not only dispense drinks, but its AI system also can learn a patron's needs and preferences, Robotics Business Review reports. The machine is made by a company of the same name in Atlanta, which last year received a $2M round of funding.
Drinkers interface Monsieur via a touchscreen that is connected to a microcontroller that oversees the coolers, pumps, sensors and other components that create and deliver the orders. A mobile app allows patrons to order drinks from a short distance.
MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory developed a robo-server that is as much waiter as bartender. Two small Turtlebots, which resemble coolers on wheels, bring beers from a robot bartender to students if they request one, Popular Science reports.
Will automated bartending change the layout of the future bar? So far there is no sign of that, with the larger machines typically able to fit into existing bar space. Other companies are making smaller versions to accommodate smaller bars and restaurants.
It is unclear whether the robots will actually allow many restaurants and bars to reduce staff, though not all robotic bartenders would be seen or experienced by restaurant or bar patrons. For example, the Smartender would replace workers in the back who pour drinks for servers at chain restaurants and other mass-market venues, the WSJ reports.
So far the devices are costly — a Makr Shakr 3.0 costs about $115K, while a Smartender system runs about $30K — but manufacturers argue that establishments can recoup the expense by reducing staff and spillage, and that prices are coming down as the tech improves.