A robotic arm carefully grips the cup as frothy milk cascades onto smooth espresso. It gently places the cup before you.
Coffee is served.
I’m a little obsessed with coffee. I have five coffee makers at home, each for a different style.
But if the next generation of robotics companies has their way, they might all be replaced by a skillful droid.
Founded in 2015, Cafe X makes full-service robocafes that can be found at San Francisco International Airport and elsewhere. Today, they are only sold to commercial customers, but can the home version be far away?
Cafe X’s intelligent robots can make a drink in as little as 20 seconds. It can even make multiple drinks at once!
Best of all, the price is less than half what Starbucks charges.
CEO Henry Hu was inspired by the robotic arms that build automobiles.
A simpler coffee machine could make drinks, but the robotic arm is much more versatile. It can also serve snacks or even be used in restaurants.
The pandemic hit Cafe X hard, but it’s back in service in SFO, Dubai and elsewhere.
The machines cost about $200,000. A quick Indeed search shows most barista positions in the NYC area paying between $13 and $30 per hour.
If the average is even $20 per hour, and a human-staffed store is open perhaps 90 hours a week, it costs $93,600 to staff the store with even one barista for a year.
In an ever tighter labor market, once employers go bot, they may never go back.
Cafe X isn’t the only company bringing Star Wars to Starbucks. In Nashville, Panera Bread is rolling out coffee robots from Miso Robotics.
Unlike Cafe X, Miso’s robot is barely noticeable. It discreetly monitors temperature and time to ensure a perfect brew, but there’s no robotic arm to whisk the drink to you.
The system is designed to assist workers, not replace them.
Miso Robotics also makes Chippy, which fries tortilla chips at Chipotle, and Flippy, which flips burgers for White Castle.
In a white hot labor market, these robots may not cause unemployment. But my concerns about restaurant automation run deeper.
When I go to a cafe, I sometimes chat with the barista and have a little laugh. In a world of sensors and robotic arms, I’ll have no one to talk to.
Those little interactions aren’t the substance of our social life, but they can be enjoyable sprinkles on the top.
Cafe X’s robot amazes me and manages to be cute to boot. But I find a world without anyone to share a brief chuckle with a melancholy one.
Would you try a robocoffee? And what do you think about the future of restaurant automation?
Leave a comment at the bottom and let me know!
More on tech:
Robot Pizzas and the Future of Fast Food
What if Everyone on Earth Had Super Fast Internet for $1?
Robot Hands, Vertical Farms, and the Future of Food
If you found this post interesting, please share it on Twitter/Reddit/etc. This helps more people find the blog!
Save Money on Stuff I Use:
This platform lets me diversify my real estate investments so I’m not too exposed to any one market. I’ve invested since 2018 and returns have been great so far.
More on Fundrise in this post.
If you decide to invest in Fundrise, you can use this link to get your management fees waived for 90 days.
My wife and I have gotten organic produce shipped to our house by Misfits for over a year. It’s never once disappointed me.
Every fruit and vegetable is super fresh and packed with flavor.
I thought radishes were cold, tasteless little lumps at salad bars until I tried theirs! They’re peppery, colorful and crunchy!
I wrote a detailed review of Misfits here.
Use this link to sign up and you’ll save $15 on your first order.
3 thoughts on “Coffeebots and the Search for the Perfect Cup”