‘I got served cocktails by robot bartender – It could be a taste of the future’

There is no place I'd rather be on a date night or afternoon drinks with friends than a bar that serves really good cocktails — but when I heard I could get one made for me by a robot, I just had to give it a go.

When I went down to Sandbox VR in Birmingham City Centre to take on the Squid Game challenge, the virtual reality game wasn't the only thing I was excited for. Walking in I saw the robot bartender and I just knew we had to give it a go.

The big white mechanical arms made an array of fruity alcoholic drinks, which we ordered from a tiny screen at the table and I watched as it wizzed around adding all the ingredients in. Personally, I was amazed by it as it almost reminded me of the Citreon Picasso adverts I would see on TV as a kid.

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We ordered three different drinks to try – an Apple Martini, Magic Margarita and a Zombie Apocalypse. They were done so quickly and tasted great. "This is amazing, I love it," I said to my friends. "I feel like I'm in the future."

I truly was stunned. However, my friend, who worked in bars when they were at university had just one criticism. "It tastes good, but it's not meant to look like that." I looked at my cup and realised that was true, the ombre effect mixologists give their cocktails isn't really there with a machine.

It got me wondering whether this futuristic robot bartender could really be the future of hospitality. Obviously, I can't say for certain whether the industry will soon be in mechanical hands — but I asked some experts if they could share their opinions with the Daily Star.

According to research by three rocks, 62% of Brits would consider trying a fully automated ‘robotic restaurant’. While 56% would choose an AI or automated self-service system such as self-ordering kiosks or AI sommeliers over a human if it meant a faster, more accurate service when eating or drinking out.

The study, which was conducted 2,000 Brits, even concluded than one in 10 Brits admit they would be happy to visit a fine dining restaurant with fully automated service and food served using a robot or other technology.

However, others believe that while robot bartenders are fascinating to watch, the human element of the industry shouldn't be downplayed. Former Dragon's Den 'Dragon' and CEO of Nightcap, Sarah Willingham said: "Robots will never replace humans in hospitality.

"Hospitality is built on human connection and robots will never be able to have the empathy and thought driven process that a bar tender has. Robots have specific tasks given to them and a human has the intelligence and range of emotions to deal with anything that happens in a bar. Certainly in our group Nightcap, our bar tenders are more than just making drinks they are a community and a friend to our customers."

Justin Chai, the founder of Just Jooz, said that he watched a robot bartender in action and found them "aw-inspiring". He claims the machines can "can prepare drinks swiftly, minimizing errors and introducing a novelty factor that draws clientele."

However, he claims the two should co-exist and that bar staff shouldn't be replaced by machines as "no matter how sophisticated, lacks the ability to empathize or provide a personal touch."

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Dr Patrick Holthaus, Senior Research Fellow and Manager of the Robot House at the University of Hertfordshire agrees as he claims "robots cannot replace human interactions, but only complement them" and has declared that the hospitality sector will be "safe from being taken over by robots."

He added: "Robots have a substantial potential to change the hospitality sector, possibly impacting on the delivery chain and further automating processes like dishwashing and logistics. They will also likely have a growing role in customer-facing roles, e.g. as entertainers or servicing guests. However, waiter robots will not widely enter your pub around the corner, but mostly appear in individual establishments to invite customers to a special experience."

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