If you ever spent what seems like a lifetime to get a beverage at a sports or concert venue, check out what’s in Denver. At Empower Field at Mile High, thirsty football fans will spend more time watching their 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, Fla., is adding Empower to its roster of venues.
“I’m here to watch a game, to see a concert, an event, that’s what I’m here for… I don’t want to stand in line” and “miss my favorite song,” co-founder and chief executive officer Justin Honeysuckle told Yahoo Finance during a recent demonstration of the automated bar at the Broncos stadium.
While you might spend 15-minutes waiting for a single bartender at most games or concerts, TendedBar has four points of sale at one ten-foot bar.
“The speed of service is unparalleled 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 company’s start was rocky. It stumbled badly that year at a popular Nashville watering hole, Honkey Tonk Central.
That did not deter Honeysuckle and his co-founder and stepbrother, Jay Perkins. They crowdfunded 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 of 2021, raised another $ 5 million.
A few months later, the true 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. Prior to the pandemic, the bar system relied on a cumbersome ID process and patrons were required to wear RFID bracelets.
“COVID hit and it shut down everything, everywhere,” recalled Honeysuckle. “We couldn’t make money, but we could innovate. We evolved to full facial recognition where you sign up one time and you can go to any TendedBar in the country and you’ve verified that you’re twenty-one with a credit card on file.”
Once verified the process is simple.
Customers grab a cup of ice, scan a selfie and choose from 10 liquors and 18 mixers. The brands, and prices, are set by the venues. In Denver, a single (1.5 oz.) cost $10.79, and a double (3 oz.), $17.69. Tips are optional; 100% go to local charities such as Boosters for Families Colorado or Nemours Children’s Hospital in Jacksonville.
TendedBar also solves another problem for venues: the labor shortage, which still plagues everything from schools to trucking firms.
“Right now the industry is about 80% understaffed,” Honeysuckle says. “And if you think (those former workers) are coming back, I think they’ve found something else to do.”
Who are some of TendedBar’s other 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, and concerts from Backstreet Boys and REO Speedwagon. More partnerships, Honeysuckle adds, will be announced soon.