We Have Seen The Future, And It Serves Strawberry Dr Pepper

spirecropLast year, we brought you news that Pepsi finally had its answer to the Coke Freestyle super-fountain, and it was called the Pepsi Touch Tower. Over a year later, these machines finally made their way out into the wild, and have been renamed the Pepsi Spire. There aren’t many in operation: only 76 in the United States as of this writing. We were fortunate enough to encounter one while grabbing a slice of pizza.

Sure, there are other videos of the Spire in action, but those are generally earlier versions, with a public relations staffer or the Pepsi CEO looking over a reporter’s shoulder (warning: auto-play video at that link). How are these machines working out in the wild?

I’ve used the Coke Freestyle before, and was mostly surprised at how small the Spire setup is. It really feels like a tablet with a spout underneath. That’s it. Unlike the Freestyle, there’s no built-in ice machine, which makes it more compact. On the other hand, you then need a separate ice machine for customers who prefer ice.

It was very simple to make a strawberry Dr Pepper, then later a beverage that was 1/3 raspberry Sierra Mist and 2/3 club soda. Here’s a terrible video of the process, but if you’ve ever used a touchscreen tablet, you’ll get the idea. Tap, tap, beverage. Yes, I needed at least one more hand to do this.

Pepsi Spire from Laura Northrup on Vimeo.

One possible problem with the Spire: it’s not set up like a traditional soda fountain. Yeah, that’s part of the appeal, but that leads to a problem I wouldn’t have anticipated. Customers are used to soda fountains with a row of spouts and an ice machine in the center. More importantly, there’s a big drain at the bottom, which the Spire in use at this pizzeria doesn’t have. If a customer doesn’t like their concoction, they’re in the habit of tossing it into the drain. If there’s no drain, then they’re just throwing the soda back on the counter.

That’s why there’s a handwritten note in this video that you won’t see in Pepsi’s own promos. It instructs customers to “please dump unwanted drinks in the ice machine.”

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