ATLANTIC CITY — Beverly Minchillo sat down at a $5 slot machine at Bally’s Atlantic City and touched a video display screen that said “beverages.” A few minutes later, cocktail server Bella Edwards showed up holding a drink tray and pleasantly said to Minchillo, “Hi, sweetheart. How are you? Here’s your brandy Alexander.”
In this pamper-the-customer world of casino gambling, it is now the slot machines at Bally’s that order the drinks. This saves gamblers from the trouble of flagging down a waitress to get their favorite cocktail, beer, glass of wine, soda or cup of coffee.
Bally’s introduced the automated “beverage on demand” system last summer. Sister property Harrah’s Resort will get the same technology for its slot machines this month, parent company Caesars Entertainment Corp. said.
Don Marrandino, president of the Eastern Division of Caesars Entertainment, said the company will likely introduce the beverage system later at its two other Atlantic City casinos, Caesars and Showboat. At this point, Bally’s is the only one of the 11 Atlantic City casinos to have the specially equipped slot machines, giving it an edge on its competitors, Marrandino added.
“In our business, building a relationship with the customer is a huge part of what we do, especially with all of the competition,” he said.
Marrandino explained that the technology significantly cuts down on the amount of time it takes to order the drinks and have them delivered, giving the cocktail servers a better chance to get to know the customers. Edwards, a 21-year cocktail server at Bally’s, agreed. She also said there is an added benefit for the cocktail servers — higher tips.
“Since we know our customers better, they tip us better,” said Edwards, of Galloway Township.
An interactive touch screen on the bottom left corner of the slot machines invites customers to order whatever drink they desire. Simply push a box that says “beverages” and then another one with the words “requesting menu” and you’re in business. What follows is an entire selection of beverages, including beer and wine, nonalcoholic drinks and liquor. There’s even a category that says “cocktails A-Z.”
Just hit the “call server” button after you’ve selected your drink and — Presto! — a cocktail server materializes a few minutes later with your order.
“It’s great. I really like it. I don’t have to wait for a waitress to walk by now. I push a button, order my drink and wait for it to be delivered,” said Minchillo, a slots player from Cumberland, R.I., who comes to Atlantic City with her husband, Vincent cq, three or four times a year.
Although any slots player can use the drinks system, it is even better for gamblers who have the Total Rewards loyalty cards offered by Caesars Entertainment. They can customize their orders through a “my drinks” display that keeps a record of their favorite beverages.
All of the drinks ordered by slots players who have the Diamond Club or Seven Stars cards in the Total Rewards program are free, even premium alcohol such as Grey Goose and Absolut vodka. Noncardholders who play the slots get most of their drinks for free, but have to pay $1 or $2 for premium liquor, depending on the brand. Marrandino said even that price is minimal for high-end liquor.
The perks continue for cardholders. Marrandino noted that customers holding high-tier loyalty cards are put at the top of the queue when the drinks are electronically ordered from the slot machines to the bar areas. Drinks are rushed to them even faster than to noncardholders.
“Our better players get better service,” Marrandino said. “Our philosophy is, the higher the tier you have, the better we’re going to take care of you.”
Marrandino said the average response time for delivering drinks is less than seven minutes. He credited the drink-ordering system for helping to boost Bally’s customer-service levels to record highs.
“We analyze our service in each department. We’re having all-time records here and we attribute that to better technology and better person-to-person opportunities,” Marrandino said.
The cost of the beverage system has not been disclosed by Bally’s, but it appears to be paying dividends. Bally’s officials said about 30,000 drinks per week are ordered from the slot machines. Bally’s touts the system as a way for customers to seamlessly request a drink without interrupting their gambling.
A large banner next to the casino floor advertises the technology. “Thirsty?” it says. “Our slot machines will take your order.”
After some early growing pains, the drink-ordering system is nearing perfection, now about 90 percent accurate and “getting better every day,” Marrandino said.
Edwards noted that cocktail servers have adjusted and now enthusiastically embrace the new way for delivering drinks.
“We had all been doing it one way for 30 years. It was like re-learning the whole 12-year program of school,” she said of the transition period. “It was scary. But we’re making it work. We’re getting the hang of it. And the customers like it.”
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