For all of the change the food service world has seen including takeout & delivery and the impending arrival of robotics, beverages are often overlooked. California-based beverage dispenser Backbar believes that beverage profits need to be looked at once again carefully.
With that mission in mind, the company is revolutionizing the way beverages are designed and dispensed in high-end and casual bars and restaurants alike. There has been a lot of innovation around food menus, how customers order, and front of house operations over the last few years. However, in many locations these changes haven’t found their way into beverage operations.
This is where Backbar comes in, providing clients with a way to innovate their drink menus without having to worry about hiring and training specialized staff or keeping hundreds of ingredients behind the bar.
“At its core, the Backbar machine is a modern soda fountain,” said Rishabh Kewalramani, Backbar’s co-founder. Essentially, the machine is a four-by-six-foot soda fountain that sits behind the bar, under the counter, or at a beverage station. Instead of making drinks from concentrate, Backbar holds both shelf-stable and refrigerated items that restaurants are already carrying to pull from as the ingredients for coffees, cocktails, cocktails, juices, and sodas.
Their goal is to simplify beverage menu selection for the dining patron and restaurant staff. “We see a number of customers looking for healthier, fresher drink options, and including sparkling waters and cold brew coffee,” Kewalramani continued. Backbar cuts down on labor and time so that restaurants can focus on providing unique, on-demand beverages.
“Our goal is to serve the best in class of every category of beverage,” Kewalramani explained. “We have customers who serve Earl Grey old-fashioneds, shaken iced espressos with brown sugar, and watermelon ginger superfood juices, all through this one machine.” They do this by increasing efficiency in three areas: labor, speed, and menu. Having a machine that can produce specialty coffees, cocktails, and juices at the touch of a button eliminates the need for specialized beverage staff.
With Backbar, an operator can now serve cocktails at lunch without the expense of a bartender or specialty coffee at dinner without having to hire a barista. The average time the machine takes to make a drink is 10 seconds, compared to the 30 seconds the same drink would take a barista or bartender. Because of this, bars and restaurants can now offer a full specialty coffee, juice, and cocktail menu in a four-foot space.
“If you’re able to expand your menu and switch some of those water and soda orders to higher-margin categories, and do so with just the baseline efficiency, you’ll easily make your money back on the machine,” Kewalramani said.
Backbar’s industry reset of how foodservice is dispensing beverages has proven to be a big success nationwide. They started beta testing in 2021 and have grown quickly over the past two years; in 2022 they started selling to the foodservice trade, and currently have 40 units in place—and they’re projected to grow 100% per quarter over the coming year.
Backbar has also become invaluable to its operating partners as the units are able to gather and share sales and inventory data. That big picture data is helping its customers with a crucial understanding of how much time it takes to make drinks, the quantity of ingredients are poured with each drink, and on which days certain ingredients should be refilled.
Backbar offers their machines for 1-year leases, which includes quarterly servicing at the very minimum. If anything breaks, they’re able to send someone to service the machine in person within 24 hours for most locations in the US. But in the end, although they offer a cutting-edge product, anyone should be able to learn to use the machine with a little training.
“There are no robotic arms or anything like that. We do have higher levels of automation, but if you can use a freestyle machine, you can use this. At the base, we just want to make a better soda fountain,” Kewalramani concluded.
For additional information, foodservice professionals are invited to visit the Backbar website.