E-Pub: Top gun quick on the draw

Related tags Alcoholic beverage Cocktail Jd wetherspoon Us

A computerised dispense system that can serve up to 48 different mixed drinks and cocktails from a single gun has arrived in the UK. Invented by...

A computerised dispense system that can serve up to 48 different mixed drinks and cocktails from a single gun has arrived in the UK. Invented by American company Berg and already a success across the Atlantic, the Laser is being tested in three JD Wetherspoon pubs. It boasts that it can serve any mixed drink in as little as two seconds - not only saving time but stocks lost through over-pouring and pilfering.

"If you've been to the US you've probably been served with one without even realising it," says Berg's David Ward, whose West London-based team has spent the past two years getting the system approved by trading standards in the UK.

"People are naturally a little wary of it over here - it's a radical change, but you can really see the value on a busy Friday or Saturday night. When customers get their vodka and Red Bull in three seconds it keeps them happy and helps business."

The Laser guns themselves look like any soft drinks dispense gun, but they are rigged up via a python to banks of spirits bottles stored in the cellar or, as a feature, behind the bar. Up to 16 brands can be used and each gun is controlled by its own miniature computer which guarantees accurate measures.

The only spirits that can't be dispensed through the guns are cream liqueurs and sambucca - which tends to taint the line and affect the flavour of other drinks, although you could have a dedicated sambucca gun.

Laser can interface with EPoS systems via a back-office computer and will automatically ring up the price of each drink on the till or barstaff can continue to punch it in manually. Drinks dispensed can then be reconciled with what's gone through the tills and operators can pull down a report that tells them what's been served at what time from each dispense point.

"Coming to the UK has been a big learning curve for us," says David. "US bars have one server per station but over here the staff move around. But we are working on that."

Independent licensees may be dissuaded from investing in Laser by the cost. A two or three-gun system will set you back between £12,000 and £14,000, depending on the exact configuration.

But David believes operators can get a return on their investment within three to six months.

"Increased sales alone is enough to pay for it," he says. "In peak hours, when the pub is rammed, you can serve an extra six drinks an hour - and licensees might be shocked by the amount they can save on stock losses."

So far, JD Wetherspoon is playing its cards close to its chest on whether the system has been a success.

"We are always keen to look at the latest innovations within the pub industry," says its spokesman. "The Berg Laser is on trial at three JD Wetherspoon pubs. Once the trials are completed we will consider whether it is something that will be of benefit to our pubs."

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