Welcome to Delivery Rank’s exclusive interview with Alan Adojaan, the CEO of Yanu, the world's first contactless robot bar. Alan is a visionary entrepreneur and the driving force behind the innovative concept of Yanu, revolutionizing the way we experience the hospitality industry. With his expertise in robotics and automation, Alan has successfully combined cutting-edge technology with the art of mixology to create an extraordinary customer experience. Today, we have the privilege to delve deeper into Alan's journey, his inspiration, and the future of Yanu. Let's hear directly from Alan himself about this exciting venture and the impact it is making on the world.
Idea came to me 7 years ago, after working 15 years in hospitality industry running bars, night clubs and restaurants. There you can always see the same problems, mostly the staff. You don’t have enough people, there are rush hours, there are empty hours, there are long cycles. People are leaving jobs, you have to educate them all the time, and they go to another place then – all those problems I was facing. Especially after the Covid, it has proved our idea viable.
I had idea of optimizing some of the process, maybe doing some parts faster or automatic, serving or pre-preparing the drinks, etc. All my friends thought that this idea is crazy, and that is not what the world needs. But then, I found cool guys, designers, who immediately liked the idea and they drew the machine – the shape of it, and they made a concealer of the robot and that is how it started to roll. Then we walked through the local university, where the local professor who is participating in top robot projects of Baltics, immediately liked the idea as well – and I agreed with them to start with developing.
After 2,3 years of arguments with designers and engineers, we finally got to the point where we had an idea of HOW to do it. They suggested strongly to automate all processes, cut the people out completely, and make a fully autonomous system. Then we invented all the machinery inside, megatronics, and a glass feeding system was invented by us. Then we inserted bar machinery, an ice machine and soda cooler, and it began to formulate.
Robot there of course is more for a show than a need, it would be much cheaper and easier to build it without a robot hand but we also wanted it to be, not just a vending machine, but a digital bartender that prepares the drink and is fun to watch, an entertainment too.
During the development we had a lot of problems to solve, as any hardware company does, because when you build something and usually it doesn’t work at first hand, and you need to re-do inventions, re-do the tests, there are a lot of actions there. Designers wanted it to be futuristic and beautiful, engineers wanted it to be functional – so to get all rectangle boxes inside the robot’s round shape, it was a big trouble. Because there was not much room and there are a lot of machines needed to fit there.
Biggest problem in development was the ice machine – there is no such an ice machine in the a world that fits for us, it has to be small, compact, fast, and with a dosator. Dosators usually are the big screws that turns ice cubes out, but you never know how many you get, you can get two or ten. And that is the problem when ordering the drink. It might overflow or not have enough liquid in the glass. That is something that we still struggle with. Second big problem was the payments – it is different in every country, so we decided to build our own payment server, which in the end cost three times more than expected. We have to make it work for Dubai, as we want to Dubai World Expo, and it turned out that they are using the local cards that are not connected to international cloud systems, and that was the big challenge.
Every day there is some challenge, something that is going wrong, everyday we are fixing bugs, and some unexpected things happen, robot producer sometimes change sthe software, so robot does not properly behave. There is a lot of stuff happening. It is a constant struggle and finding the way to make it work. But also a fun and exciting journey.
Hospitality is already changes, especially after the COVID.A lot of bartenders changed the jobs, wanted to find other places to earn money, so there is a huge shortage of bartenders today.
Statistics said that in the US before COVID there were 1 million people missing for this work, and now it is 4 million. That shows what is going on there. In western world, it does show a big shortage of workers, and that is something that we are addressing. Of course, today we are not able to do the top fancy cocktails as most professional bartenders can. Our focus is the long cycles: airports, hotels, where you need three shifts of people to cover 24 hours. Another focus we aim is the rush hour places where you have a lot of people coming in a short period of time, like night clubs or events, festivals, sport venues, metro stations. That is our playground, and I think that robotics all in all, automation, is breaking through in every aspect of human life today. And hospitality is maybe one of the last ones, but I would say the fastest-growing sector of robotic services. Growth of application is ca 80% per year. It is a big playground, for a lot of parts of the world. Shortage of the staff as I said, and also our machine, does revolution in that field, it lowers the expenses, and improves the service, service quality and drink quality are the same. It really brings prices down, you don’t have to build bars or pay salaries. It allows us to bring in better and faster service. Our machine can do up to 100 drinks per hour, that is the work of three bartenders. Imagine this going on for 12 hours, you need a lot of people, who don’t go to the toilet, smoke, etc.
We have two different options, two different apps for customers. First, there is a point of sales app, an iPad on machine, and that is for fast service – people can come in, select the drink, pay with a card and get their drink in a minute. Second option is mobile app – that has more preferences and features, it remembers your favorites, can do the promotions, it is interactive and gives a lot more options. We are also developing a chatbot, so it can be talked to at one point, to have a conversation or just a short greeting or a joke. That is what we are aiming, communication module, not just to be a vending machine. That is something that makes service personalized, because human factor in the bar is important, although it depends very much on the venue. In a dark and noisy night club, you don’t spend time talking to a bartender, you need faster service and the bartenders there are robots. For places like airport launch, for example, where you have time to spend, and there is no such a rush, communication is definitely important.
Job Market impact – as per shortage, we are not taking jobs, but we are bringing up revenues and at the same time our company is creating more high-level jobs – programmers, technicians, a lot of people who need to take care of development, building the machine, setting it up, maintaining – that creates jobs and reduces some of the low-level jobs.
We are in transit into a more automotive world, it is happening everywhere and it is inevitable. I will say that both, industrial revolution and each industrial revolution brought us a lot of benefits and very few negative sides. There is more free time for the people, there are more options to do what you like, it gives you cheaper products, all that is brought up by automation.
In Food industry we can see a lot of automation today, that brings down the prices, makes the service and production much faster, and stable quality. Plus, it is also fun and attractive, it is nice to watch and good to have. Entertainment value is not something that you should miss here.
Our clients can be divided in two categories, one that looks at the numbers and really needs fast service, who are looking for a return of investments, looking for replacements of the workers, looking for high capacity put out on the machine. And there are the other, mostly western ones, they are looking for attraction, for the game, for the show. They don’t care that much how capable a machine is, they want to bring people in, show to people something new, bring them experience. That is also an important point.
My background is not actually in technology, I have a communications background, so for me it was quite difficult in the beginning, to understand what is going on, how things work, what does engineering mean, how company is built and relations in the company. It is definitely not an easy journey. I would suggest – prepare and make sure what you are doing and for who you are doing. Market research is very important, to understand what customers need, because there are a lot of great ideas flying around. Usually most of them are very hardly applicable, or maybe not needed on the market, or there might be a need but a bit different one. For instance, for us, we should have started with the communications module, and the entertainment part first, but I went the other way – I wanted to build the best machine in the world, the most able, the fastest, by my idea all the technical aspects should be perfect. But it turned out later, that maybe that is not so important, and that machine doesn’t need to give 100 drinks per hour, but to be more on the entertainment side. That is my lesson from the development part.
Hospitality industry is definitely a playground that has a lot still coming, there are a lot of options and opportunities. I think that is something that entrepreneurs should look for. Robotic is full of cool development systems, but there isn’t much in hospitality, the market is still very wide and open. Restaurant, food and beverage business. We also have a lot of ideas of what we could do if we get more funding. There are a lot of cool ideas and developments to add to this machine.
If you would like to find out more about Yanu, visit https://yanu.ai/