MGM gave Culinary heads-up on bar automation

MGM gave Culinary heads-up on bar automation

March 13, 2019 3:00 AM
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New technology is lighting the path to improved service and efficiency in the resort business.

MGM Resorts is just one of the companies happy to take a look at ideas that promise improved efficiency and boost revenue without affecting a customer’s experience. They believe they’ve done this with an automatic drink-mixing machine that will be installed at its Las Vegas properties this summer.

“It’s a cool system and I hear it can handle more than a thousand different drinks. You’d be hard-pressed to stump it,” said a person familiar with the system.

The idea is that the waitress will press a button and presto! You’ll have an instant gin and tonic, even a Manhattan. Whether it stumbles over a Sex on the Beach or a Long Island Iced Tea remains to be seen. But if it trips over any given recipe, a human bartender could presumably be summoned to save the day. MGM, however, prefers an optimistic view: the machine will get the job done.

The first reaction of some industry watchers has been to wonder how many bartenders might be affected by the change that is to be implemented in late August. Concepts such as the “automated service bar” were covered in last year’s contract negotiations with the Culinary Union. Neither the union nor MGM will talk now about the number of bartenders likely to be affected one way or the other.

MGM gave Local 226 a six-month advance notice of the change Feb. 27, and will help bartenders, moving them to other employment opportunities in the company or counseling as necessary.

“Our employees are the core of our business and we are committed to supporting them through change and transition. That’s why we worked so closely with the union... We will work closely with the union over the coming months.” That’s the essence of a statement issued by MGM spokesman Brian Ahern.

The union is taking a “Let’s see how it goes” attitude to the change that will likely be used by other resorts with high volumes of business. Remember how bill validators were quickly installed on slot machines everywhere after a few casinos gave them a try and liked the results 20-25 years ago?

Geoconda Arguello-Kline, the secretary-treasurer for 226, said the union will be “monitor the situation closely” to make certain the situation remains faithful to the provisions of the contract.

The system will be back-of-the-house and not visible to customers. Bars facing the public will not be touched by the change.

What is the benefit to the various MGM properties where the system is to be used? Improved control of the alcohol inventory is a big one.

Icahn influencing Caesars

Don’t expect billionaire Carl Icahn to wave his magic wand and create a new attraction as he buys his way into the decision-making process at Caesars Entertainment.

Exciting travel destinations that have global appeal are not Icahn’s thing, so to speak. He likes to buy under-valued ventures and hold them for resale. Unless he can buy control and anticipate an eventual sale to someone else. Which is exactly what did with that still-unfinished high rise that was to be The Fontainebleau at the north end of the Strip.

He bought it in a bankruptcy court auction for about $100 million and sold it last year for more than $600 million to an owner who appears intent on finishing it. While Icahn owned it he sold off all the furnishings to other hotels and casinos. In other words, it was a real estate deal

Icahn is a dealmaker. But his history in Las Vegas and Atlantic City shows no indication of a desire to create a resort brand as others have done. He has almost 18 percent of Caesars, a company regardless of the fumbling and juggling by a shifting lineup of owners, is among the best known names in the casino business with bright prospects for further growth.

Pause button on DOJ decision

The January opinion from the Department of Justice has muddied the water a bit,

Companies intent on expanded sports betting feel as though they hit a speed bump when the DOJ decided the Wire Act of 1961 was a barrier to all kinds of online wagering.

How long it will take to clear this mess from the highway to the gaming industry’s future remains to be seen. 

The American Gaming Association says there is no fresh insight, but the DOJ has issued an additional 90-day stay before there will be any effort to force compliance with the new interpretation of the Wire Act.

“It was like a hiccup,” Jay Kornegay said. The Westgate SuperBook boss flashed a wry grin explaining that his hopes for opening a version of the SuperBook at locations such as California’s Santa Anita (when it re-opens) and other such sites where opportunity appears to beckon have been pulled back for the moment.

Lawmakers and casino regulators are seldom inclined to rush into the unknown, although the private belief of some is that the DOJ’s revised thinking will be ignored or swept away by the chaos raging around Capitol Hill.

“Until there is clarification,” Kornegay said, “we need to hear more. How hard and how far is Justice going to push this?”

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