They’ve not quite got it about a robot bartender

This is an interesting video for sure. But the inventors are missing something.

The least important thing about being a bartender is knowing how to mix the drinks.

You’re there to play the crowd.

There are indeed many jobs that are going to be mechanised in the years to come but the bartender is going to be one of the last of them.

17 comments on “They’ve not quite got it about a robot bartender

  1. Well, kinda. I think it’s more of a case that barmaids are paid so that people can look at their tits than for their ability to mix drinks. I’m in Hobart, and I asked the barmaid in my hotel – cute little thing – for a screwdriver. Confusion reigned, she reached for the manual, before I explained it was the simplest of them all. Why the fuck you’d employ a barman, though, is anyone’s guess. Maybe 10-15 years ago their job was to play the crowd, but I’ve not seen any do it in the last decade.

  2. I’ve made the same comment to my hairdresser. Apart from the fact that haircutting would be hard to automate, part of the reason women go is to have an hour of being looked after.

  3. Dunno, while decent pubs worth going to will always benefit from staff that know the product and their customers, some pubs, including large chains like Wetherspoons, don’t value that side of things at all, Spoons specifically bans staff from fraternising or chatting to customers, if you’re talking you’re not working and there’s always work to do, that’s why their service levels are quite low in the “well run” pubs, but some managers are smart enough to let staff do the job properly and hope Martin doesn’t find out.

    I can see pubchains of this nature loving the idea that they can dispense with most of their staff, I can also see other pubs benefitting enormously from specifically not doing so.

  4. Surly it depends entirely on the nature of the bar.

    In my town the is a large drinking establishment known to the locals as “the cattle market”. I can’t imagine ever chatting to the bar staff in there, as it is it’s usually like a pitched battle to get to the bar to order. For that sort of establishment, I’d think a robotic bar tender would be ideal.

    On the other hand, if I choose where to go for an evening(I only attend on the cattle market if someone else insists), it’s usually a rural place, where everyone knows everyone, and there are usually only a dozen or so patrons in at a time. That sort of place, it’s as common to chat to the bar staff as anyone else, (in one of the establishments I visit, it’s usually ‘self service’ if the landlord is deep in conversation), and replacing them with self service machines sounds rather pointless…

  5. Tim’s right. Just imagine Sinatra singing One More For The Road to robot. It doesn’t work.

  6. @Tim Newman,

    I think it depends on where you are. At the bar at the Mandarin Oriental HK you are basically paying the staff to not talk to you. At the local I worked in as a young whippersnapper your role as barman was conversation, conviviality, and being the butt of the jokes, gracefully. In both cases the main product is the atmosphere, not the drinks (which are the same but 10x the price in one, and in both places more expensive than from Tesco).

  7. With all due respect, it’s not a “robot bartender” it’s a “drinks vending machine”, slightly tarted-up!

  8. The bar for what counts as “artificially intelligent” seems to have dropped pitifully low. It’s a fuck of a long way from Talkie Toaster, isn’t it?

    And anyway, as Pogo points out, it’s just a vending machine with a touch screen.

  9. >The least important thing about being a bartender is knowing how to mix the drinks.
    >You’re there to play the crowd

    Well, this only applies if it’s 1985 and we’re living in the film ‘Cocktail’. Otherwise bartenders are just worker drones.

  10. A good barman or barmaid is worth his or her weight in gold. They need to have a prodigious memory for faces, and the little details that go along with those faces, for recipes and for who’s ordered what. They need to keep an eye on the potential rowdies, monitor stock levels, steer punters towards profit centres like food or mixed drinks, and communicate with the bar manager throughout the night. Done right. it’s a tough and skilled job. In most places they’re the primary front-of-house people and a good bar staff can make or break a pub. Being able to remember that Jim likes a slice of lime, not lemon, in his G+T and he prefers Beefeater to Gilbey’s (and hates Gordon’s) without being prompted is the sort of thing that makes Jim come back, and tell all his mates about what a great place it is.

  11. “The least important thing about being a bartender is knowing how to mix the drinks.

    You’re there to play the crowd.”

    Ah, Tim. ‘Cocktail’ is a pretty old film now, you realise?

  12. >Being able to remember that Jim likes a slice of lime, not lemon, in his G+T and he prefers Beefeater to Gilbey’s (and hates Gordon’s) without being prompted is the sort of thing that makes Jim come back, and tell all his mates about what a great place it is.

    Do places like this really exist outside of the occasional local?

    And personally I hate it when the staff start to remember what I want. That tells me it’s time to move on to somewhere else.

  13. Yes indeed they exist. And they’re wonderful. The greatest barman I ever encountered was in a pub in Bath. He remembered that my Dad and I drank Bass from mugs a year after we’d been in there a couple of times. Apparently the landlord had to keep increasing his wages because all the others were trying to poach him.

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