Barry Givens was at a bar with a friend, watching the NBA finals. They ordered sodas and cocktails and sat back to watch the game. A few minutes later, the Cokes arrived at the table – but the other drinks took over an hour. There’s got to be a better way, thought Givens.
And so an idea was born. It stayed in the back of his head as Givens graduated from college with a mechanical engineering degree and went to work for a large corporation. But after several years, he was burned out and ready to pursue his idea. “I started doing a lot of research and engineering on the product,” Givens told Opportunity Lives.
In 2012, Givens created his first automated bartender, calling it Monsieur. Givens brought on another friend to write the machine’s software, and he built the first 8 or 9 iterations in his garage.
Monsieur can create mixed drinks with the touch of a button in only 20-25 seconds, drastically improving efficiency for restaurants and saving time for customers. The machine holds several types of liquor and mixers and the screen shows a wide variety of cocktail recipes for users to choose from. Monsieur even learns your taste preferences and can recommend drinks you may like.
At first, the company marketed to personal users – people who wanted a machine in their home. After launching at TechCrunch Disrupt in 2013 for tens of thousands of viewers, the idea of a robotic bartender took off and the company began selling units online. Over time however, Givens realized that the real market was for commercial customers.
Today, the Monsieur team is reaching out to hotels, restaurants, and sports-entertainment venues to get their bartending machines at locations across the country. Several pilots are currently underway, and Givens is excited about the future potential of the company. “We’re working with 3 of the top 5 in each of our verticals,” he said.
Monsieur recently partnered with Churchill Downs, the famous Kentucky Derby site, to install machines in the Winner’s Circle Suites. In 3 days, over 4,000 drinks were made using the Monsieur machines.
The machines can be managed using a detailed software package that alerts employees when liquor or mixers need to be replaced. Real-time data also allows owners to measure which drinks are the most popular. Monsieur is currently developing a new automatic bartender product that is more suited to the commercial buyer.
The biggest challenge for Monsieur has been managing an entire product release cycle, said Givens. “We’re a team of about 10 people now with about 50% of us being engineers.”
But he has learned so much from the process. “You can’t be afraid to take risks,” said Givens. “The reality is, there’s a lot of stuff you won’t learn until you get the product out.”