Here at the Spoon, we’ve written about how an increasing number of startups are applying robotics to back-of-house production of food such as pizza and burgers, while others are exploring how automation could remake the consumer-facing part of restaurants.
But in today’s coffee shops, both the front and back of house are in one space, which means it was probably inevitable that any attempt to bring robotics to the coffee cafe would look something like Cafe X.
The startup, which has just opened robotic coffee shops in both San Francisco and Hong Kong, is creating what looks like a robot coffee shop in a box. In a Cafe X cafe, a robotic arm in a see-through cage takes orders from consumer-facing kiosks. Once an order is placed, the robotic arm moves cups around to various coffee machines and eventually delivers them to small delivery windows for the consumer once the coffee order is done.
While this presentation of robotic coffee delivery seems like something you might expect to see at Disneyland’s Tomorrowland, it actually could be more efficient than the old fashioned, Starbucks model of making coffee. However, not only do you have to wonder what type of cost savings are derived from utilizing an expensive Mitsubishi robot arm, but since the robot arm mostly shuffles cups around to the different coffee machines, would a more efficient long-term design actually just eliminate the robot arm altogether and integrate automated cup dispensers directly into the coffee machines?
Maybe, but it certainly wouldn’t look as cool, would it?
You can see the Cafe X in action below in a video from Techcrunch.