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MGM Hates Bartenders, Too

By Chuckmonster on Tuesday, 1st December 2015 9:24am
  » filed under Las Vegas  comments: 12


MGM Resorts International, owners of Aria, Bellagio, Circus Circus, Excalibur, Luxor, Mandalay Bay, MGM Grand, Mirage, Monte Carlo, New York-New York, and Vdara, have been aggressively instituting new cost reduction programs throughout their collection of resorts under the name Profit Growth Plan.

The Profit Growth Plan program includes standardization of hotel room toiletries and linens throughout all hotels listed above, penalizing guests who book via online travel agents and hot and heavy internal discussions about monetizing self parking.

In addition to new fees and streamlined operations, MGM has concentrated their efforts on reducing costs and increasing revenue at bars via variable weekend/event drink pricing and cutting back on comp booze offerings.

The elimination of the two shelves of booze isn't just about saving a few cents on wholesale beverage costs per unit, but part of a larger plan to replace live bartenders with automated pour systems. Yes, you'll still be able to go to a bar and have a human being mix you a drink, but the service bars - back of house drink mixing stations where wait staff disappear with empty trays - will be replaced with automated digital bartending systems. watch this video from Berg Liquor Controls Company to see how a gigantic rig like this works. Berg Liquor Controls, the company that makes the devices in the video touts MGM Grand as one of their clients.

You ordered rum & coke? The waitress goes to the service area, grabs a glass, presses the rum & coke button, squirt... rum & coke. Bourbon & soda? Grab a glass, press the bourbon & soda button, squirt... bourbon and soda. Gin & tonic? Glass, button, squirt, lime. Vodka, rocks shaken hard with vermouth kissed ice and three stuffed olives? Your guess is as good as ours. Should you find yourself at an Aria blackjack table, order it and tell us what happened.

Using the Berg system, drink recipes are managed via computer interface and mixed with incredibly precise, digitally controlled pours. Recipes can be adjusted in real time as well, just like surge pricing but tightening up the amount of booze that goes into the drink. Eliminating the bartender reduces human error, waste, and eliminates shrinkage with total information awareness. The system will be able to track every single drink poured, when they were poured and who served it.

Just like live dealers, bartenders cost money. They also get sick, they need health benefits, they don't show up, they drop and break bottles of booze, they drink on the job, they make mistakes and they show their gratitude to good tippers by pouring heavy and often. All of this human behavior comes at the expense of the company's bottom line.

A slot machine that gives out paper with a bar code on it, not money? Then I take that paper and put it in a machine that counts out money and change and gives it back to me? That'll never happen!

A blackjack, poker table or craps game? With no dealers, no chips, cards or dice? Are you kidding me? That'll never happen!

A bar comp system with no cash, no bottles, no bartender or even a bar? One where I swipe my comp club card, wave my mobile device or insert a barcoded ticket that came out of a poker slot into a scanner which reads it, deducts comps from my balance and automatically squirts out the drink I've ordered? No cash, no bartender, no waitress, no bar, no stools, no matchbooks? Are you kidding me? That'll never happen!


Comments & Discussion:

This doesn't surprise me, especially when my Aria limo showed up and was self driving...

This will be sad if it spreads. The TITO system with self-cashing is a welcome change in terms of convenience, and I understand the business side of it. The same with electronic roulette and craps as it appeals to people that are intimidated by the real thing (I'll change my tune once dealer-managed craps and roulette go away)

Self-service drinks would seems to both ruin the experience of the bar and the cocktail waitress service, and take away time from playing. But as you've said, there's a curious push to remove gambling from some of the strip operators. I'd love to see data on the number of people that come to town and do not gamble one cent. I know the restaurants are good and there's fun clubs, but go to LA or Miami instead if you aren't playing at all. Just puzzling.

I rarely gamble when I go to Vegas. I'm definitely one of those that goes out to eat, drink, and shop. The automated bartender LOOKS neat (they have one on the Anthem of the Seas..the new Royal Caribbean ship) but it does take away from that personable experience you get from having a human pour your drink. The thought of chilling at a bar with robots and machines just seems....to Japanese (j/k j/k!)...it just seems to friggin creepy. I'm good on not having everything replaced by robots thank you.

RockChickX51 - did you used to gamble more and the desire went away, or has it never held much of an interest? Do you go with a group that does gamble? Just curious! I certainly understand as my wife doesn't play much when we go, it's just interesting to hear from the non-gamblers who enjoy Vegas.

Be wary bringing up any concerns about surge pricing, inventory control, or quality of experience on Twitter. You might be called out of touch with modern business models, a Vegas novice, or worse...."frugal"

Okay, I can admit that I am old-fashioned and view "machines" only as a helpful tool......not the "be all end all". I accept them if they help the human do their job better OR provide a benefit to both provider AND user. TITO means I do not have to carry around a bucket of coins and the machines are usually as fast or faster than waiting in the cage line.....I see the benefit for both the provider and user and can accept that. It is a generic item and a ticket that says $389.92 always comes out the same (or it should). However, something as unique as my favorite drink is a different story......many a great adventure has taken place in Vegas while the group I was with searched for the best bartender in the best bar (along with some good VP). History is littered with examples of bean counters destroying a brand........look at the difference in the car models from GM from the 50-60's to the 70-80's. That is the long term results of bean counters wielding their mighty pencil. MGM appears headed down that path........are you ready for the MGM Vega Resort?

This might actually be cleaner if all the drinks are centrally sourced. Nothing like reading all of the flies in bottles that the Health Inspector finds to make you happy to avoid bars.

I'd love a fully self serve machine a la Cole Freestyle, but I know why that will never happen.

How do I tip a robot? Do I slide a little extra bearing oil into one of its joints?
And how can I make it like me? Do I charm it with my wit and smile? Do I ask it about its robot children?

Jokes aside, I'll settle for a back-of-house machine if it means all the good bartenders are still slinging drinks at actual bars. But surge pricing is dumb. And not comping the good stuff means we'll lose another aspirational aspect of Vegas (bet/spend more and we'll give you this scotchy, scotch, scotch)

This could explain the limited drink service when ordering at machines. The CWs are limited to what their robotic overlords can sling in the service bars. They want to serve Grey Goose, but they worry that they will be slaughtered by their robotic bartenders if they ask for GG instead of Absolute.

I seldom gamble when in Vegas but do eat, drink and the whatnot. Having a machine pour the drink takes away from the bar experience in a major way. Sure some pour one way and give you a little extra but that's the person you seek out and bring friends with you to have fun. This isn't just for bars, McDonald's is about to do the same thing. Go to the counter and place your own order. We are drifting into an automated world that eliminates the need for human contact.

Mechanising things is, in and of itself, fine.

But seriously, a lot of drinking and gambling is a somewhat-social experience. Having dealers and pit crew to talk to, having other players to talk to, having bartenders to talk to... all of these things add to the experience.

Sure, the comp bartender doesn't really contribute to the sociality but honestly, there is a limit to how much you can cut costs before you start adversely impacting customer experience, and the Profit Growth Plan seems more than willing to slam the accelerator down when crossing that line.

FWIW I can't see Japan ever havign robots at a godo cocktail bar. The very personal, even somewhat slow, service is part of the appeal and the high prices.

As for Vegas....this doesn't surprise me much for floor drinks. Not sure how folks at the real casino bars would react, though I suspect poorly. I doubt the robot could come up with a great rum drink I've never had before.

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