From burger-flipping robots to dinner-delivering drones, automation is slowly finding its place in the restaurant industry. Now, the team behind Las Vegas’ Tipsy Robot robotic bar is hoping a hefty investment in automated bartenders will drive customers to the already bar-saturated Strip.
“I’m a big sci-fi guy,” says Rino Armeni, who won’t detail the robots’ price tag.
Armeni’s a food-and-beverage industry veteran who now operates Tipsy Robot, what’s being billed as the first “land-based” robot-staffed bar. (A cruise line previously offered drinks made by robots.)
How does the concept work?
Customers who enter the 2,500-square-foot, 117-person-capacity Tipsy Robot bar—located inside the Miracle Mile Shops at Planet Hollywood—are greeted by hostesses (aka “Galactic Ambassadors”) who direct them to one of 30 ordering tablets placed around the bar. Customers choose their drinks, type in their credit card information and email address, and receive an email confirmation with a QR code and wait time.
The two robot bartenders—they can shake, measure, muddle, chop, pour and, yes, dance—assemble the drinks from ingredients stored in the ceiling before sending the finished glasses down one of the mini conveyor belts to its owner.
So, do robot bartenders eliminate labor costs? The short answer is no. Tipsy Robot offers a separate bar staffed by one or two human bartenders for those who want a less high-tech experience. (About 70% of customers opt for robot-made drinks.) In addition to the Galactic Ambassadors, there are always a couple of managers on the floor. “I want to make sure people are welcomed by people,” Armeni says. “The robots are just an attraction. You can’t replace the contact, the human factor.”
Tipsy Robot opened in early July and received a few negative Yelp reviews from customers who said their drinks took too long to arrive. Armeni says the robots, originally designed in Italy for automotive assembly, have performed as directed. It’s been the POS system that communicates with the robots that has caused delays, he says. And the advantages of robot bartenders are numerous. “The robots are pretty much perfect,” he says. “They pour the same amount. They don’t spill. They don’t make mistakes. They’re a bit more profitable [than humans] from that aspect.”
Need for more seating
On average, Tipsy Robot customers are ordering about 1.5 drinks per person, Armeni says. He’s finding, though, that their dwell time is longer than anticipated, as they like to hang out and watch the robots make more drinks. The concept is adding a bit more seating and is considering offering prepackaged snacks, as the space doesn’t have a kitchen or a license to prepare food.