There will always be a time and a place for cute bartenders, but the Circuit of The Americas is no longer it. The racing venue is speeding things up with TendedBar, an automated cocktail maker with facial recognition technology. It may not be as flattering as being recognized at your favorite local haunt, but it’ll keep the lines moving.
TendedBar debuted at COTA in June of 2022 at a Camp Nowhere concert, and served drinks at three more after that. Things went great for these intrepid mini bars, and they’ll be back as a partner for major upcoming events including Wiz Khalifa with Logic, ODESZA, and the Formula 1 United States Grand Prix in October.
The robot bartenders’ mission is to “serve drinks in seconds,” which they seem to achieve in demo videos. The facial recognition capability means customers don’t have to dig for credit cards or shout last names, and the quick mixing goes, predictably, much faster than a person holding several tools.
“Increasing speed, consistency, and quality of beverage service is so important to delivering world-class fan experiences because no other menu category accounts for more transactions at large events,” said Sandeep Satish, managing director of hospitality group Levy’s DBK Studio, which developed the machine. “There is so much opportunity to continue expanding and enhancing beverage service.”
The machines — very similar to touch screen Coca-Cola Freestyle machines that felt miraculous in 2009 — allow a user to select each part of the drink, resulting in more than 100 possible cocktails. It starts with a brand or a well-known cocktail recipe, then allows additions such as tonic water, lemonade, and ice, plus an additional “splash” if the user chooses one.
Another demo shows four “steps” after getting ice and choosing the ingredients: selecting single or double, strength (adding more or less mixer to the same amount of alcohol), an option to “tip” a percentage toward a charity, and a button to pour.
Although the process eliminates human error and inefficiency on the bartending side, flabbergasted fans without the social pressure of someone trying to work quickly may take a little extra time exploring their options. And visiting fans suspicious of facial recognition technology may not like that the one-time registration includes storing a selfie and government ID in perpetuity.
“Austin has always been on the forefront of technology and hospitality,” said TendedBar co-founder Justin Honeysuckle. “With our proven track record at sporting events and concerts, the Circuit of The Americas and the Germania Insurance Amphitheater will prove to be a perfect venue for the technology, automation, safety, and quality that TendedBar provides.”
Guests are encouraged to pre-register with TendedBar to save time at the event. Registry and more information about the machines are available at tendedbar.com/registration.