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Will your hotel minibar be replaced by a robot bartender?

Will your hotel minibar be replaced by a robot bartender?
The Somabar is a robot bartender that is being tested for use in hotels as a replacement for the minibar. The device can mix up to 20 drink recipes, which are ordered from an app. (Colin M Day / Somabar)

Robots may be coming for the hotel minibar.

The Los Angeles-based inventor of a small appliance that dispenses mixed drinks will be on display next week at the Western Foodservice & Hospitality Expo, an event at the Los Angeles Convention Center that will feature coffeemakers, water dispensers, baked goods and other food-related products.

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The robot bartender is about 2 feet tall and includes six containers of different alcohols and mixes and one container of bitters, said Nelton Wu, a spokesman for the inventor, Somabar. An app on a digital tablet directs the appliance to use those ingredients to mix up to 20 different drinks, he said.

(No, the robot bartender does not tell jokes or offer words of encouragement to depressed drinkers.)

Somabar was one of several companies and inventors that Hilton Hotels & Resorts featured in an innovations incubator that the hotel giant launched last year next to Hilton’s headquarters in McLean, Va. The incubator was created to promote ideas to “redefine the future of hospitality,” according to Hilton.

As a Hilton partner, Somabar hopes to someday replace the ubiquitous hotel minibar with the robot bartender, which Wu said can dispense drinks and charge the cost to a user’s hotel bill.

A Hilton spokesman confirmed that Hilton has been a supporter of Somabar and other inventors but added that the hotel company, with more than 570 properties worldwide, has no plans to replace the minibars with robot bartenders.

“We work with many start-ups on innovations that we believe can enhance the guest experience,” Hilton spokesman Nigel Glennie said. “We will continue to stay in touch with Somabar as they prove and commercialize their product.”

Asked to respond to Hilton’s unwavering devotion to its minibar, Wu said, “We will continue to talk to them.”

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