As a student at Purdue University in 2014, Jay Perkins was required to come up with a senior design project. The concept he created with was TendedBar, an automated drink mixing system.
Perkins realized his idea had the potential to go much farther than his dorm room. He entered his prototype in a contest for collegiate inventors and entrepreneurs called RECESS and was selected as a finalist. The competition in Las Vegas provided a platform where he could pitch his idea in front of judges and investors, one of whom was a representative of Marc Cuban Companies. Cuban, owner of the Dallas Mavericks and widely known for his role on the TV show “Shark Tank,” sponsored a seed funding round at the event. Although he did not win a prize in the contest, Perkins kept working to bring his idea to market. He took a chance and emailed Cuban looking for advice, and ended up with an investment offer.
“I came to him and I asked him for advice and how exactly he saw it going, and then he was the one who proposed buying in,” explained Perkins.
TendedBar uses technology to expedite liquor service and maximize profit in the barkeeping business. A touch screen displays 100 different beverage combinations, allowing a server to select specific types of alcohols, mixers and “splashes” to create a custom drink. The system produces a precisely measured pour every time, which means less waste from overpours, which is a big selling point for bar owners. TendedBar customizes each unit for the individual business.
The first establishment to feature TendedBar was Honky Tonk in Nashville, where Perkins has based his growing business. He is working on getting more units into bars across the country.
“We are ready to manufacture and put units out there,” Perkins said. “We’ve only been around for about a year, but this past year we’ve spent getting to the point where we’re able to put out a superior machine and be able to support it no matter where it is. We’re at that point now.”
While the original version of TendedBar was designed to be used by servers and bartenders in brick and mortar establishments, Perkins has also developed a fully automated system that can be used directly by customers at events. This version was rolled out at EverBank Field for the Florida Country Superfest in June, when TendedBar set up a mobile unit at Gate 4 during the well-attended, two-day event. Perkins explained how the mobile unit of TendedBar works.
“You go through a payment line once, open up a tab and tie that tab to a wristband. When you get a wristband you get ID’ed as well, so it serves both purposes. You go through that line once and then you can just go straight to the machine. You have someone there checking wristbands to make sure they’re not tampered with and to make sure that that wristband is your wristband. Then, you just come up and pick your drink and serve it.”
After the initial set up, the process of pouring a new drink is quick and easy, according to Perkins. “If you know what you want, you can select it on the screen and be done in 10 seconds.”
TendedBar was extremely popular with concert-goers, outselling nearby bars in the same section of EverBank Field. When asked whether or not TendedBar would make an appearance at upcoming Jags games, Perkins was optimistic.
“That’s the hope, right now. It’s a little bit on hold, but, ideally we’d have it in by next season. That’s all still up in the air right now.”