New York Minimum Wage Increase Gives Birth to the First Fully Automated Bar & Grill

Technology Learns it is Minimum Wage Best Friend

Bessemer, Alabama, UNITED STATES

Birmingham Alabama, Aug. 08, 2017 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) --   When Anthony Pallino opened L.I. Pour House Bar and Grill three years ago, he didn’t want to go with the flow of traditional bars. Seeking to be unique and develop a strategy with different appeal, he sought to tap into the trend of self-service.
The business in Port Jefferson Station, N.Y., became a rarity in the region – and the first of its kind on Long Island – but part of a growing movement around the world of bars enabling drinkers to serve themselves and pay as they consume.
And this week, L.I. Pour House’s self-service concept expands to new level with the introduction of tabletop kiosks that will allow customers to do everything from order food to play games to pay their bills – all with as limited or as extensive interaction with a live people as they desire.
Pallino sees the technology, developed and deployed by Alabama technology firm Juke Slot, as a way to give visitors more control of their dining experience and, perhaps more importantly, boost revenue for L.I. Pour House.
“The self-service kiosk was a no-brainer,” he said. “It makes us more self-sufficient.”
The advent of the self-serve concept comes at a challenging time for the restaurant industry – and for the New York restaurant industry in particular.
For starters locales across the country have hiked – and continue to raise – the minimum wage. The rate is expected to top out at $15 an hour in New York state in the next few years.
It’s already jumped $2.50 the last two years to $7.50 an hour for servers working at L.I. Pour House. The self-service technology used by the restaurant has helped keep operational costs in check.
“If you needed five or six servers on a normal night, now you need four,” Pallino said. He estimates that an electronic server saves thousands of dollars a year.
In addition, the technology serves as something of a buffer against worker shortages that recently have plagued fast casual and quick service restaurants around the country. When staff vacancies exist, kiosks and other self-service solutions can be difference-makers in preventing significant operational disruptions.
Self-service technology “fills the gaps,” Pallino said. “But no matter what technology brings, customers still want some human interaction.”
L.I. Pour House made the typical wait for a server or a bartender obsolete with its self-service approach.
The only real contact customers need to have with them is to initially set up a tab. They’re then given a wristband, which is part of a system dubbed iPourIt.
To partake in the 20 self-serve beers available, with taps along a wall, they simply hold the band to a reader above the taps and dispense the amount of beer they want. Customers are charged per ounce poured.
They can try the numerous types of beers – all with no waiting.
The concept comes as a recent survey by Opinion found that almost one in four bar-goers have considered abandoning a drink order because of long bar lines, and one in five left a bar or pub to go somewhere else when it took too long to be served.
The survey also found that bar-goers wait an average of 12 minutes per order, working out as 35 minutes in a night when the average number of drinks ordered is three. 
It’s that lack of desire to wait that’s expected to help drive the success of the tabletop devices, which will be used in connection with the bar and grill’s popular food offerings.
The tabletop kiosks are a natural complement to L.I. Pour House, Pallino said.
The Juke Slot tabletop kiosks look more like a handheld gaming system than multifaceted kiosks. Measuring a mere 8 inches by 5 inches, the device weighs under 2 pounds. It features a 7-inch high-resolution touchscreen display and comes in various colors.
Its Android-based software is customizable, meaning restaurateurs can tailor the interface to their needs. Owners and managers not only can display its menu on the screen, but also can allow customers to configure meals to their liking.
Customers taking charge of the ordering process through the kiosks, deployers say, also minimizes errors, as diners clearly see what they’re requesting. The devices function as portable point-of-sale systems, allowing customers to use the machines from the start of their visit to the finish. Customers can make secure electronic payments and receive a printed receipt.
For businesses like L.I. Pour House, which experiences several traffic peaks throughout the day, the kiosks can create shorter waits.
While servers and bartenders are trained – and regularly urged – to upsell and promote profitable specials, they don’t always remember to do so amid the hectic periods and handling multiple orders at the same time.
But the tabletop kiosks will.
For instance, when someone orders tater tots, the device will ask if the diner wants loaded tater tots instead for an additional 99 cents.
“If you get them to do that 200 times a week, that’s $200 more,” Pallino said. “It’s a huge difference.
“I’d love to live in a world where every bartender is upselling and promoting the business, but they’re human. We’re going to let things fall between the cracks. What makes us better is the amount that falls between the cracks. The kiosks help with that. … They’re going to make check averages go up.”
Designed to increase revenue, too, is the device’s gaming network where customers pay to play. At the bar, where a customer can go a half hour or longer between drinks, they can answer trivia questions and compete in electronic sports, gambling or racing for food and drink discounts.
Besides boosting sales, the feature occupies diners while they wait for their food to arrive. That comes in handy, particularly for couples with children.
Despite being a bar and grill, L.I. Pour House prides itself as family oriented.
“This also helps with families with young children coming in,” Pallino said. “We’re very family oriented. I don’t want to go away from that. A lot of places are drifting away from that, trying to become more of a bar.
“Parents coming in want their kids to be entertained. Timmy can be playing on the tablet till the food comes.”

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