Self-service wine dispenser helps improve productivity at F&B outlets

A growing number of F&B outlets are now using the self-service WineStation. Restaurants said the technology has not only helped to improve labour efficiency but has also boosted wine sales.

SINGAPORE: Do not be surprised if you are asked to dispense your wine yourself the next time you visit a restaurant – a growing number of F&B outlets are now using the self-service WineStation, which was first introduced towards the end of 2013.

The Pump Room at Clarke Quay started using the WineStation in December 2014. Each unit costs S$13,500.

To use the machine, customers buy a stored-value card which they use to purchase wine from the automated dispenser. Alternatively, customers can opt for a tap card which records the amount spent on the wine stations during their visit. They will then make payment and return the tap card when they leave the pub.

Since the introduction of this system, The Pump Room has seen an increase in sales. In December alone, sales of its premium bottles rose by 20 per cent compared to the previous month. The technology is imported from the United States by The Cellar Door, which is majority-owned by The Quayside Group, which also operates The Pump Room.

Mr Steven Foo, managing director of The Cellar Door and executive director of The Quayside Group, said: “We could not find staff and that made me go to the web and search for anything that could possibly help me to cut labour costs, and WineStation caught my eye. It will cut one to two workers. It also improves efficiency and reduces spoilage and spillage. All these are factors that affect your net profit at the end of the day.” WineStation also extends the shelf life of opened wine bottles to as many as 60 days.

The Quayside Group plans to introduce the wine station across its four other F&B outlets – Peony Jade Restaurant, Quayside Seafood, Butcher’s Dog and Pepper Steakhouse & Bistro. It said that the move could help cut labour requirements by 10 workers.

Golden Village Multiplex has also recently adopted the technology at its Gold Class theatres. Known as iWine, the wine stations were installed at its Vivocity Gold Class lounge in November. It will soon be available at Suntec City later this month, followed by its Gold Class theatres at Katong and Great World City.

Both Golden Village and The Pump Room said they will waive the 10 per cent service charge if customers decide to dispense their own wine. Mr Peter Lau, assistant manager of food and beverage at Golden Village Multiplex, said: “In the long term, when patrons are more aware and more confident of doing the self-serve with the machines, hopefully it can help to cut down our service staff to serve the wine and our service staff can focus on other areas.

“With the wine machines, all the tasting notes are on the machine, so customers can read through and know what kind of wine they are tasting and they can even do their own food and wine pairing. That helps to eliminate the staff having to explain it to the customers.”

GV said each Gold Class theatre is staffed by at least six workers, and more are required during the peak hours in the evenings and during weekends.

As part of efforts to restructure the economy and raise labour productivity, the Government has tightened foreign-worker policies progressively over the last few years, and businesses have to find new ways of doing things differently. The Timbre Group, for instance, will try out a flying robotic waiter at one of its outlets in the first half of this year.