18 Reasons Robots Won't Take Your Bartending Job

Humanoid robot
Honda's humanoid Asimo robot is capable of mixing and pouring drinks, as well as running, walking up stairs, and conduct a full symphony. Photo: azadam/Flickr

We're only two months into 2016, yet sometimes it feels like we're one MIT grad project away from a robot utopia. Bots can now iron our pants, play the drums, and even deliver our food, prompting much hand-wringing over whether the droids have finally come for everyone's jobs. But what about bartenders? Robo-bartenders like Monsieur and HoLLiE made tech industry headlines in 2015; Royal Caribbean's futuristic Quantum of the Seas cruise ship staffed their bar with droid mixologists; even IMB's famous Watson tried his hand at making drinks. It begs the question: should bartenders be worried about these slick machines taking their jobs?

The short answer: no. While many of these bots are equipped with enviable traits, like complete precision when pouring and the ability to recall thousands of recipes at the tip of a hat, a fancy algorithm in a sleek martini-shaking package does not a bartender make. In our humble opinion, human bartenders have nothing to worry about in terms of job security. Here are just a few of the reasons why robo-tenders will never measure up to the real deal:

  1. Their jokes are terrible. Robots are not known for their grasp of puns, nor their wit. (They're probably awful at naming their cocktails, too.)
  2. Got a customer who was stood up on a date, or drowning their sorrows after a breakup? They'll find neither solace nor wisdom from a robot behind the bar. They are cold, soulless machines who care not for the trifling matters of human lives.
  3. They can’t appreciate a good regular. No matter how loyal your favorite customer's patronage is or how reliable his tipping skills are, he's just a mess of 1’s and 0’s in the eyes of a bartender bot.
  4. Do you have opinions on the merits of Scotch versus American whiskey? Or opinions on whether there's an "e" in "whiskey?" Or any opinions at all? Robots don’t. And they don’t care about yours, either.
  5. No one’s really sure what will happen if a guest walks up to a bar and tells a robot, “Surprise me.”
  6. Robots might have recommendation algorithms rivaling Pandora's, but they'll never be as good as humans at gently steering a cocktail newbie toward an approachable, enjoyable drink, or ad-libbing a mocktail for a non-drinker.
  7. Robots may be armed with breathalyzers, but they lack the intuition necessary for gauging when to cut someone off, and the people skills necessary for diplomatically dealing with problem guests.
  8. Robots won't intervene when the Trump supporter and the Bernie Sanders advocate are sitting next to each other and things get heated.
  9. Robots aren't known for their improv skills. Try running out of limes in the middle of a shift and asking a robot to ad lib its way through the rest of the night.
  10. As long as you act decent and you aren’t drooling on the bar, a human bartender would never mercilessly deny you a beverage for no reason. If and when the uprising comes, robots behind the bar will wield a scary amount of power should they refuse to open the bottle (or, as it were, the proverbial pod bay doors).
  11. Robots lack certain skills inherent in a good manager (or really, all of them, if we're being honest), and therefore would be dreadful to work for. Barbacks, beware.
  12. Robots cannot grow impressive facial hair. Or any impressive hair at all, really.
  13. Robots aren’t so great at picking up subtle social cues, and we all know the modern bar is a veritable anthropologist’s playground of human interaction. A woman at your bar is singlehandedly attempting to fend off a relentless suitor? If R2D2 is manning the bar, she's out of luck.
  14. Robots are terrible listeners, but they’re also bad fakers. At least when you’re weeping into your Manhattan, a human bartender possesses the ability to pretend to care.
  15. Can you teach a robot to shake, muddle and stir? Probably. Can you teach a robot how to “just know” when the texture on a Ramos is perfect, or how to artfully adjust a drink to perfection? Doubtful. As Facebook user Jacob Mudd puts it, "Robots can't make on the fly adjustments. Like if your limes or lemons are extra sour, maybe a real person would dial back the citrus, or up the sweetener to compensate."
  16. For a human bartender, making eye contact with your customer is crucial. For a robot, it’s just creepy. Particularly because most of them lack eyes.
  17. Robots don't have the inventiveness and resourcefulness that lead a bartender to discover things like, say, vacuum-sealed oleo saccharum, or the creativity to dream up delightfully clever garnishes.
  18. Robots might be able to pour with perfect precision, work an eight-hour shift without getting tired, and memorize a catalog of thousands of recipes—but they're not human. And at the end of the day, when someone saddles up to a bar, orders a drink, and starts talking about the weather with their bartender, that's all it really boils down to: just a little good old-fashioned human contact. Sorry, Watson.
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