Tired of your barista giving you attitude, spitting in your coffee if you only mention Trump, or misspelling your name on your morning cup of joe? Surely a robot could do better. Well, we are about to find out, because on Monday, Cafe X opened its very first robotic cafe in San Francisco’s Metreon shopping center Digital Trends reports. Promising “precision crafted specialty coffee in seconds, the way the roaster intended,” Cafe X thinks that anything a human can do, its machines can do better. Or rather just one machine.
Nicknamed Gordon, after a Cafe X employee, this robot mans, or robots, two standard professional coffee machines in order to serve up espressos and lattes. In the San Francisco location, customers can grab a cup of coffee with beans from AKA Coffee, Verve Coffee Roasters, or Peet’s. While the coffee itself may not make Cafe X stand out from the competition, the startup hopes that the robot’s efficiency and utility will.
And it surely will, because while its name may be Gordon, its title is the "bionic barrista" and its primary mission is to terminate millions of minimum wage jobs around the globe, boosting the bottom line for major coffee chains everywhere, whose growth has plateaued and who are desperate to cut on overhead costs. Already the average Cafe X coffee costs more than 10%, or 40 cents less than a similar drink at Starbucks. With greater scale the price will only drop.
While offering clear savings for the business, there will be some tradeoffs - introducing automation and robotics into food service will reduce costs and increase efficiency at the expense of customization and a "human touch." Some companies - and clients - may prefer a personal experience to an efficient one, or a customized product. The company behind Gordon, however, disagrees: “There’s a lot of work that goes into great coffee. The Cafe X system is designed for humans and robots to collaborate,” Cafe X explains on its websites. “Smart robotics and machine learning working autonomously allows our operations team to focus on sourcing and using fresh ingredients, maintaining extremely high hygiene standards, and ensuring a great customer experience with every single interaction.” According to Cafe X, a great customer experience involves efficiency and replicability. “By being automated, we guarantee every cup of coffee you are served from a Cafe X machine is how the roaster intended you to enjoy their coffee,” Cafe X CEO Henry Hu told CNET.
For clients, the efficiency improvements and passed-through cost savings will likely more than offset any loss of a "human touch" - you can order your cup of coffee ahead of time with the Cafe X mobile app and even schedule a pickup time, if you want. Thanks to the robot’s artificial intelligence software, your pre-orders are taken into consideration alongside walk-in orders to ensure that no one is waiting for too long. And with a single robot capable of making 100 to 120 cups of coffee in an hour, you likely won’t be waiting long at all.
And since bionic barristas not only do not expect a weekly paycheck, but need no healthcare of benefits, the choice for Howard Schultz' replacement is clear. Oh, and to those 10,000 refugees who had hoped to get a job at Starbucks, our condolences.
Watch "Gordon" in action here:
... and here: