Behind The Bar, The Robots Who Want To Draw Your Next Pint


If the personnel in a pub or bar are nice and helpful, it really enhances your pleasure of the experience. Having to deal with a grumpy individual serving your pint or margarita, on the other hand, has the potential to drastically lower your happiness levels. The guy behind the bar can even become a buddy and confidant for those who have a favourite drinking place. “The greatest success of a bartender resides in his ability to perfectly suit his customer,” stated noted Canadian economist Harry Gordon Johnson.

Those bartenders, on the other hand, may soon cease to be human. Cecilia is a robotic bartender who mixes and serves cocktails and communicates with clients using artificial intelligence (AI) in the same manner as Alexa on an Amazon Echo speaker or Siri on an iPhone can. The machine resembles a tall fruit machine, but it has an animated female barmaid named Cecilia on a huge, upright television screen. You may either tell her what cocktail you want or order it on the touch-screen below and pay with your credit card or phone. After that, your drink is blended and prepared within the machine before being delivered into a glass at the vending machine.

“Cecilia works on speech recognition and AI technology,” explains Elad Kobi, CEO of Cecilia.AI, the Israeli company that developed the technology. “She can converse with clients and, if they request a certain drink, she can prepare it in real time.” According to the business, each machine can hold up to 70 litres of various spirits and can serve up to 120 cocktails every hour. At least, assuming customers don’t hang around for long periods of time.

The robot was initially introduced on World Bartender Day, February 24th, this year. Microsoft, accounting company KPMG, and IT giant Cisco have all utilised it at business gatherings since then. Customers have the option of purchasing a Cecilia for $45,000 (£34,000) or renting one at $2,000 each month. Mr. Kobi believes that, in order to “wow” clients and stand out from the throng, the typically change-resistant pub and bar industry will increasingly resort to such technologies. “Companies are realising that they need to do things differently than others to attract individuals,” he adds. “That is something that technology and innovation can do.” Celilia. The device will also be used in hotels, airports, stadiums, casinos, and cruise ships, according to AI.

Bartending robot proponents also point out that they can help bars become more efficient, which boosts their bottom line. “When you have a venue, the major concern is ongoing workforce difficulties,” Alan Adojaan explains. He is the CEO of Yanu, an Estonian startup that just debuted a competing bartender robot. “There is always a labour shortage. You must train them, but they will then depart. There is a lot of personnel turnover.” He claims that robot bartenders may assist address this issue while also putting a stop to other concerns like overly liberal pouring of measures or delivering free drinks to friends, which he claims many venue owners take for granted.

“If someone wants a gin and tonic on a Yanu, for example, you [the bar owner] may specify that the robot pours four centimetres of gin, as well as the correct amount of tonic and lemon juice,” Mr Adojaan explains. Another advantage of a Yanu (cost: $150,000) is that it can serve beverages faster – and to a larger number of people – than human bartenders could. “We’re looking for venues with a lot of foot traffic, like sporting events, festivals, or nightclubs,” he explains. “The machine is extremely rapid, producing 100 cocktails each hour at the rate of three and a half bartenders. It has a capacity of 1,200 drinks.” Furthermore, bartending robots can provide 24-hour service in situations where hiring a human bartender would be prohibitively expensive and impractical.

“Consider a hotel lobby or an airport that is open 24 hours a day. You’d need to engage three shifts of personnel for such a facility, which is pretty costly “Mr. Adojaan explains. “So, for the most part, that will be our playing fields.” At the World Expo in Dubai, one of its Yanu robots is now preparing alcohol-free drinks at the Estonian exhibit. The emergence of bartending robots, like that of other sectors, is likely to create worries about job losses. While some bartenders and waitresses will lose their employment, Emanuele Rossetti, the CEO of Italian robot bartender firm Makr Shakr, believes that they will be able to find new work in the larger hospitality sector. In order to assist impacted human bartenders, it introduced a campaign in the United States in 2019 in which it promised to compensate a bartender or waitress $1,000 (£747) for each unit sold to help them retrain. Toni and Bruno, two robot models designed by Mark Shakr, have been put on nine Royal Caribbean cruise ships. They start at 99,000 euros ($114,000; £85,000) and go up from there.

While some robotics experts believe the technology will become more widely used, others in the hospitality industry believe that human bartenders would not be affected. “Robots will not be able to take the position of traditional [human-staffed] bars,” says Jan Hiersemenzel, head of marketing at F&P Robotics, which develops the Barney Bar robot bar server. “Instead, standalone robot bars are being put up in entertainment and hospitality facilities, as well as at events where a regular bar would not have been set up.” JD Wetherspoon, a British pub business, has no plans to purchase a fleet of robots to operate behind its bars. “In a word, no,” says a company representative. “Wetherspoons would never do something like that.” Mr Adojaan of Yanu, on the other hand, is optimistic about future sales to regular establishments, particularly nightclubs.

“For starters, having a conversation with a bartender is a cinematic cliché, at least in Europe,” he explains. “And you don’t have a discussion in a nightclub. You yell at the bartender to hurry up with your drink.” He goes on to say that bartenders frequently have the onerous chore of dealing with “obnoxious inebriated customers.” “They’ll be replaced by machines, just like other vocations that aren’t pleasurable or artistic on a regular basis,” he adds. Customers who want to converse with their bartender or waitress will find that the robots will develop more human-like characteristics over time, according to Mr Adojaan. “We’re attempting to design something,” he adds, “that can conduct a conversation, make a joke, ask whether you liked your drink, or recommend another.” “The endeavour to make it [look] alive, or have character, is the most exciting element of the project.”