If you’ve ever spent what feels like a lifetime grabbing a drink at a gym or concert, check out what’s in Denver. At Empower Field in Mile High, thirsty football fans will spend more time watching new quarterback Russell Wilson do his thing and less time waiting in long lines for a drink.
That’s because TendedBar, an automated cocktail bar company based in Jacksonville, Florida, is adding Empower to its list of venues.
“I’m here to watch a game, see a concert, an event, that’s what I’m here for…I don’t want to wait in line” and “miss my favorite song,” co-founder and managing director said Officer Justin Honeysuckle at Yahoo Finance during a recent demonstration of the automated bar at the Broncos stadium.
While you could spend 15 minutes waiting for a single bartender at most games or concerts, TendedBar has four outlets in a ten foot bar.
“The speed of service is unprecedented at this point, we can serve 35 people in five minutes,” Honeysuckle said.
The company was launched in 2014 with an initial investment from Dallas Mavericks owner and Shark Tank investor Mark Cuban. But the beginnings of the company were difficult. He tripped badly that year at a popular Nashville watering hole, Honkey Tonk Central.
That didn’t deter Honeysuckle and her co-founder and half-brother, Jay Perkins. They funded just over $200,000 and changed their strategy. Instead of bars and restaurants, they focused on high-volume venues. They bought out Cuban and in April 2021 raised another $5 million.
A few months later, the real game changer: a deal at TIAA Bank Field, home of the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Honeysuckle said he may have COVID to thank for the recent breakthrough. Before the pandemic, the bar system relied on a cumbersome identification process and customers had to wear RFID wristbands.
“COVID hit and it shut down everything, everywhere,” Honeysuckle recalled. “We couldn’t make money, but we could innovate. We have evolved into full facial recognition where you sign up once and you can go to any TendedBar in the country and you have verified that you are twenty-one with a credit card on file.
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Once verified, the process is simple.
Customers grab a cup of ice cream, scan a selfie, and choose from 10 liquors and 18 mixers. Brands and prices are set by the sites. In Denver, a single (1.5 oz) is $10.79 and a double (3 oz) is $17.69. Tipping is optional; 100% goes to local charities such as Boosters for Families Colorado or Nemours Children’s Hospital in Jacksonville.
TendedBar also solves another problem for venues: labor shortages, which still plague everything from schools to trucking companies.
“Right now the industry is about 80% understaffed,” says Honeysuckle. “And if you think (these former workers) are coming back, I think they’ve found something else to do.”
Who are the other TendedBar customers?
According to Honeysuckle, the automated bars have appeared at events at California’s Del Mar Horse Racing Track, Circuit of the Americas Formula 1 in Austin, Texas, PGA Tour events including the Farmers Insurance Open and AT&T Byron. Nelson, as well as concerts by Backstreet Boys and REO. Speedwagon. Other partnerships, adds Honeysuckle, will be announced soon.
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