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The Rise of Alcohol Dispenser Machines

rise of alcohol vending machine

We love watching our favorite bartenders skillfully pour a tall glass of whatever-it-is-we-ordered at the bar. On slow nights, when we have a little elbow room in our home establishment, patiently attending while the mixologist does their thing – whether that’s making a tricky cocktail or getting the foam to beer ratio just right – can prove to be the perfect blend of entertainment and anticipation. 

On busy nights, however, we might think the process would be a little more gratifying, and a whole lot quicker, if we could just do it ourselves. We’re betting bartenders think so too – and this must have been the thought process behind the first ever implemented alcohol drink dispenser machine. 

Pre-pandemic, self-service booze stations were having a moment in a variety of locations including hotels, airports, specialty bars, and other convenient gathering locations. The focus then was on novelty, speed, and the delivery of a unique experience in participating bars and restaurants. 

Alcoholic drink machines took a hit over the course of the past two years, however, and is trending down in many of the places where its popularity once soared. And we think this dip is undeserved. 

Are alcohol dispensing vending machines the future of bars?

Alcohol vending machines are often a fun experience for customers, and always a convenient source of revenue for establishments. 

At the height of their use, some bars made a killing by introducing familiar alcohol mixed drink machines containing canned, pre-mixed cocktails which patrons could buy directly without a bartending go-between. One bar in New York City used to sell approximately 100 prepared drinks a night at around 15 dollars per can, all while maintaining regular, over-the-counter service in the background.

Another spot in Santa Cruz, California made self-service their whole identity by covering a wall in craft beer taps which guests could pour at their leisure. This helped to speed up the experience, increase service volume, and allow local beer nerds to really personalize their pint.

The self-service or vended sales method is a streamlined and scaled-down tactic that allows you to boost service rates as well as sales numbers with minimal dedicated floor space. 

Issues with alcohol vending machines

As you might imagine, automated alcohol vending machines are not without their hurdles. The biggest kinks to overcome ultimately fall into one of two categories:

  • Age verification.
    The number one question on everyone’s mind: how do you ensure a patron is of legal drinking age if there isn’t a human in attendance to confirm birthdates?

    In many ways, this problem has already been addressed over the course of the pandemic when various establishments needed to seek solutions that would make alcohol delivery possible. Already, companies are exploring smartphone-based license verification procedures which would make remote and human-free age confirmation an easy reality.

    If your alcohol drink machine is inside a brick-and-mortar bar, another low-tech solution might be simply to check IDs at the door.
  • Legal issues.
    Licensure rules, state regulations, and other legal complications can quickly get in the way of an alcohol machine installation.

    Most bars and restaurants maintain on-licenses, meaning their drinks may only be consumed onsite. In the case of a canned cocktail, a bartender would crack the lid so the beverage could not be squirreled away and smuggled out of the establishment. If the same drink is being dropped out of a vending machine, the same precautions are a bit trickier to undertake.

    In some states, this isn’t an issue you’ll have to contend with, as alcohol dispensing machines are in no way legal. For example, Connecticut has erected laws which explicitly prohibit the implementation of boozy vending machines. Other states, like Florida, have no laws against spicy soda machines, but getting the right licensing for one is not guaranteed by the courts. Alcohol vending machine California are completely legal, provided the owner has the right licensing. 

Companies currently making strides in alcohol vending 

But despite the complexity, alcohol vending machines are a great opportunity for businesses and provide fun and easy access to interested customers. So, some big names in the food and beverage industry are doing their best to bring automated alcohol vending into the mainstream. 

Beerbox is a boozy beverage dispenser that eloquently addresses many of the questions posed in the previous section. This smart machine takes payment, dispenses a fresh can of beer, and even opens it for the customer both for their convenience, and for your legal compliance. Beerbox is specially designed for large scale events such as outdoor music festivals, but may also be available for use in bars and restaurants. 

Moet and Chandon, giants of the wine world, offer a similar solution across U.S. cities which are famous for their nightlife. These brut-and-rose only vending machines require a special gold token to use, which guests can collect – ID in hand – from a nearby concierge in their location and use to purchase a 200 mL bottle as well as an accompanying champagne flute for the most elegant experience ever to be dropped through a tube. 

Final thoughts: beer, wine, and liquor vending machines

No automated experience is ever going to replace the joy of watching a Hawaiian-print-clad bartender set your Volcano Bowl on fire. But it might make your life a whole lot easier if it’s 5 o’clock and utterly impossible to wade through the crowds for your requisite end-of-week Budweiser. 

Great for festivals, hotel lobbies, and establishments with a regular rush hour, alcohol dispensing machines provide fast and easy access to simple drinks that are sure to make a patron’s night. Just be sure you’re following the right legal procedures before you install one in your bar. 

For more information on the legality of alcohol delivery, check out our other article: How Alcohol Delivery Platforms are Changing Bars.

The Provi Team


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