Delivering Speedy Automated Drinks
Thursday, November 2nd, 2017
Automation in the food service industry, especially for smaller businesses, is gaining traction as more owners realise the benefits of automating some, if not all, of their processes. Tushar Mohan, founder, Souschef, speaks with APFI on how an automated beverage dispensing system can help maintain the quality and consistency of beverages. By Farah Nazurah
Please give a brief description of the company.
Souschef is a tech-startup focussing on modular beverage automation. We have developed the core architecture to be modular which allows our systems to be customisable and re-configurable. The application of automated beverage system ranges from self-serve cocktail dispensers to game based dispensers for clubs or offices.
How would an automated beverage dispensing system help food and beverage companies?
Food and beverage business are very well known to face manpower issues. The lack of manpower for the repetitive process is what affects the quality as well scalability of the business. Take an example of an executive chef. The chef can create an amazing recipe for a restaurant, but the taste/quality will not be the same if the rest of the chefs in his kitchen fail to follow the instructions.
Quality control is one big reason why a lot of establishments end up closing, and it is a chain effect. High manpower turnover means less trained staff, less trained staff means drop in quality, drop in quality means less customer satisfaction, and less customer satisfaction means less revenue. Automating such repetitive process can solve such problems.
With the automated beverage dispensing system, we are not aiming to replace bartenders. We see it as a tool for bartenders to be highly scalable and productive. They do the creative part and the system takes care of the repetitive part where consistency is of utmost importance. A cup of Vodka Redbull takes at least six to seven seconds to prepare by a super-fast bartender. We built an automated system that was piloted at Singapore’s Ultra Music Festival which can make four cups in just five seconds with +/- 0.5 ml accuracy.
Automated dispensing of beverage concoctions is not only for the food and beverage industry, and can also be utilised in the hospitality industry—such as hotels and tourist spots. We combine automation and the existing self-serve concept to bring drinks (both alcoholic and non-alcoholic) to serve users directly.
For instance, we are working with a cafe that used to serve coffee, beer and wine in their drinks menu. When asked “why not cocktails/mocktails”, the reply was “we do not have enough volume that would justify a full-fledged bar with a dedicated bartender”. We installed one of our smaller versions at their cafe that can prepare fresh cocktails and mocktails. The customers pay at the cashier and walk to the system and choose the drink of their preference. Within seconds the drink is prepared for them. This enabled the cafe to open up a new revenue stream without worrying about hiring or quality control.
What has been the feedback from companies that have used the automated drinks system?
We have been using a couple of our prototypes for various corporate events, music festivals, house parties and cafes. We have received both positive and constructive feedback.
On the positive side:
“I don’t have to wait too long for my drink”
“I no longer need to try getting the bar staff’s attention”
“The drink consistency is amazing. All four drink cups have the same quantity”
“The maintenance of the machine is as simple as of a coffee machine”
“The user interface is very intuitive”
On the constructive side:
“It lacks the human interaction aspect”
We have taken feedback very seriously and are working on additional modules that will engage more human senses to provide a more interactive experience. Currently we are only using visual and touch features. In the future versions, we will be adding on voice/speech as well as theme based games to engage the user better.
Where do you see the automated food and drink systems market in a few years from now?
The integration of technology into the food and beverage industry is already happening at a very fast pace. Currently we see a lot of mobile ordering systems, ordering kiosks, food delivery robots, automated central kitchens etc. In the near future, I foresee the industry using more technology in a more integrated way.
Semi-autonomous systems will be integrated with each other to run 80 to 90 percent of the tasks fully automated. At restaurants, orders will be placed via touchscreen panels, the food will be co-prepared using robot chefs, cocktails prepared by digital bartenders, served by robotic waiters. An average sized restaurant will be able to run its full operation with just two to three staff in total.
How can small and medium-sized enterprises leverage on data or artificial intelligence to gain customer insights and remain competitive?
Having a better data analytics system in place will help small and medium-sized enterprises (SME) to quantify their key performance indicators rather than relying on hypotheses. With the Internet of Things at its peak and high usage of social media now, SMEs will be able to collect enormous amounts of data which can be converted into highly valuable assets for their business.
For instance, when we provide our systems for events, we send a post-event report to our clients that comprise of information such as: who had which drink, most popular drink throughout the event, drink type to time charts, most re-ordered drink etc. Such information can get very tedious to collect if done manually. But with the help of our software backend, we are able to provide really good data driven insights to help our clients plan their events better in the future.
As millennials are increasingly hedonistic and looking for new experiences, how can food and beverage companies provide this experience for them through the use of technology?
We are working on more interactive modules to target the millennials. Our focus is to make them excited to use our system. We want to be able to have multiple versions of our system that can match different themes for different events. Currently we are building a system that combines the traditional beer pong game with automation. It will have the same fun of the game but without the worry of a dirty ping-pong ball landing into the cup.
Another software update we are working on allows programmers to solve coding questions. If they are able to solve it quickly, they will be rewarded with higher alcohol content in their drinks. As for millennial consumers, we really want to increase their involvement and engagement while keeping productivity and consistency in mind.
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