Forget Labor Problems, Hire a Robot in your Store

The Lempert Report
March 17, 2017

Check out Café X in San Francisco that serves its customers with a robot-barista.

You might remember PeppAR, we introduced him to you during our 2017 Food Trends Forecast back in December – a robot in an upscale restaurant that took your order, showed you in 3D the food you ordered and took your credit card. 

Now lets head to Café X, a café in San Francisco that allows customers to place orders via smartphone or an iPad kiosk according to Fast Company.  The orders are prepared and delivered by a robo-barista. 

Unlike Starbucks and others who offer warm cozy environments and give the impression they want you to stay a while, and then some – Café X is a hybrid between a café and a vending machine. Inside are two WMF espresso machines that can make one of seven different beverages, each offered with three different coffee options from local roasters, as well as organic milk and add-on features like syrups. 

You can save a bit of cash as all coffee drinks are served in eight-ounce cups and cost between $2 and $3.  Which might make the faltering Starbucks a bit nervous. 

"If you’re looking for really good coffee, you often have to wait for a very long time, and if you’re in rush, you have to settle for very bad coffee," Cafe X founder and CEO Henry Hu told Fast Company. "We thought that by applying some automation and using mobile for placing orders, it would be possible to have really good coffee, but still really quickly." 

Here’s how it works: When your order is ready, Cafe X sends you a text message with a four-digit code that you enter at the robot’s kiosk. Once you do, the robotic grabs your cup of coffee from one of eight warming stations where it might be sitting, and gently rests it on a small shelf similar to what you might find in a vending machine. From there, you pick it up. In all, it takes less than a minute. 

 In some locations this might work well, but my bet is that other formats like Joe & the Juice have a better shot at being the Starbucks killer. After all, even with all the technology available it still seems that when it comes to beverages we still like to see and know who is making them.