When you’re thirsty at the supermarket, you can choose from literally hundreds of frosty drinks in the cooler case to grab and go. If, however, it’s cold outside and you want a mocha or chai latté there aren’t really any options at checkout. Sure, there’s probably a coffee shop in the market, but that’s not at checkout and takes longer as you have to order and wait for your drink.
This is where James Heczko, the inventor of Hot Bot sees an opportunity. The Hot Bot system has two parts. First, there is a small induction heating unit the size of a rotary telephone that would sit in a store at a checkout aisle or somewhere else convenient for foot traffic.
The second part is a special drink bottles that you’d buy off the shelf that goes into the heater. These bottles are plastic on the outside and have a steel container on the inside. Each bottle will have a QR code that the machine reads to know how what type of drink it is, and the specific heating instructions (wattage, time, etc.). It even rotates the bottles to ensure even heating. Because it uses induction heat, the drink warms up the steel plate on the inside while the plastic outside remains cool to the touch.
Heczko says the Hot Bot can heat a 12 oz drink to 145 degrees in roughly a minute. It can scale up or down as well for larger and smaller drinks.
The Hot Bot is still in the prototype phase, and Hezcko says he’s still a year out before getting it to stores. In the meantime, he’s started talking with potential customers to fill those special bottles. His goal is to get national brands on-board to offer their drinks. Think Peet’s mochas, Oregon Chai or even Campbell’s tomato soup.
Hot Bot is basically just Hezcko at this point. He’s gotten some friends and family money, but hasn’t started looking for institutional capital. Hezcko said that the commercial version of the Hot Bot will cost around $250, with the cost of drinks varying anywhere from $1 to $4. Hezcko says he’s also been working on a line of heated alcoholic beverages (hot toddy, anyone?).
Without having seen it in action, Hot Bot’s B2B approach is smart, and I haven’t seen anything similar at the stores I go to. Sure most supermarkets have a coffee shop in them, but that takes up more time. And while one minute to get a hot drink may still not technically be “grab and go,” there are probably ways to make that more efficient, like putting the drink in the heater as you wait in line at the checkout stand. Plus, this could work in any sized store or bodega, or even office break rooms.
If Hezcko can make it work, Hot Bot could heat up a new beverage sector.