A London bar has become the first in the world to trial the use of facial recognition technology on its premises to help staff keep tabs on which customer should be served first.
Developed by DataSparQ, the tech uses artificial intelligence (AI) and cameras to track customers and determine their place in the queue.
Its developers say this will help reduce the number of queue jumpers and speed up serving times by between three and five seconds per order. As well as keeping tabs on the queue, the system can also flag up patrons who look under-25, and alert bar staff if the customer’s ID already been checked.
Originally trialled last month at the 5cc Harrild & Sons bar in Farringdon, the tech will next be deployed in September at a pop-up bar in London. Luka Kovijani, bartender at 5cc Harrild & Sons, said: “It cuts out the need for sharp elbows when we’re busy. Regulars were sceptical at first but as soon as they saw it in action, they were sold.”
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DataSpar Q have said they hope to roll the tech out to pubs and festivals in the next couple of months. According to research carried out by the company, the average UK drinker spends more than two months queuing at the bar.
John Wyllie, MD at DataSparQ said: “Queuing is a part of British life that we all have to endure – but we wanted to do something to improve the experience.
“The tech isn’t designed to replace bar staff. It’s there to help them become more efficient. We’re in talks with drinks companies and pub chains to roll out the technology nationwide in the next 12 months.”
The company said it already has plans to add additional features to its software, such as ‘Face Tab’, which matches a person’s face to their order and adds it directly to their bar tab.
It also plans to develop facial recognition to determine how drunk customers are in an effort to avoid fights and allow customers to reorder drinks with hand signals. The data gathered by the system can track drinks served per hour, which will enable landlords to assess their margins and staff levels more efficiently.
Privacy groups and pub advocates have voiced concern over the use of facial recognition technology in bars. Silkie Carlo, director of Big Brother Watch, said: “It’s a sad state of affairs when we can’t even enjoy a pint without being under AI monitoring.
“The British pub is an institution and as along as our pubs are properly staffed there is no need for these surveillance-gimmicks.
“You might expect AI queue control and ‘face tabs’ in China, but not in Britain. I would expect a lot of punters will stop drinking in such bleak and anodyne environments.”
Brigid Simmonds, chief executive of the British Beer & Pub Association, said: “The local pub is the heart of the community. In fact, it is the original social network.
“However, although we are more connected than ever in the digital age, the pub is one of the few real, physical spaces people can still meet at. It is important that innovations in technology don’t fundamentally change the proper pub experience.”