The robot revolution is heading to Russia, courtesy of MontyCafe, a self-contained, robotic barista is opening in Moscow this summer.
MontyCafe is a lot like the Cafe X coffee robot, which recently debuted on the streets of San Francisco. It’s an enclosed kiosk roughly five feet in diameter with two articulating arms that swing about to automatically serve up cups of coffee or other beverages.
You can see MontyCafe in action in this video:
The MontyCafe was spun out of industrial robot company GBL Robotics. I spoke with Pavel Zhdanov, who heads up Business Development for GBL, and the way he described MontyCafe, it seemed like it was more about the robot than the coffee.
In fact, you could better describe MontyCafe as more of an open robotic platform. Zhdanov outlined MontyCafe scenarios that included food like muffins and hot dogs, and the company is even exploring the robot dispensing soft serve ice cream. This is the advantage of using robotic arms. Unlike a Briggo, which is more of a self-contained, high-end vending machine, parts on MontyCafe’s robotic arms can be swapped out to lift, hold and serve just about anything you program them to.
Zhdanov said that a MontyCafe costs $20,000 and that the company is still working on an exact business model, though he mentioned franchises and revenue share as likely possibilities. The first one will go live in Moscow’s Aviapark mall this summer. Zhdanov said the company is already fielding incoming interest from potential customers in Kuwait and Australia.
MontyCafe’s technology may not be groundbreaking, and it could even be considered lagging (it’s not plumbed directly into water lines and humans still need to clean it every night). But it does highlight how robots are poised to radically change the way we buy coffee and other consumables around the world. As mentioned earlier, Cafe X is already in two locations in San Francisco, and Briggo will launch in the Austin, TX airport next week.
The plan for all these companies is the same: use robots to make coffee in high-traffic areas. They are meant for volume production, when people want to grab a cup of coffee on the go quickly. The one disadvantage I see for MontyCafe is that the quality of the coffee being dispensed could vary from location to location. Both Briggo and Cafe X have good coffee as part of their core mission. I didn’t get that sense from Zhdanov, and if customers get weak or otherwise bad coffee from MontyCafe, they probably won’t try it again because unlike having different baristas, there is only one robot making things the exact same way every time. Though the MontyCafe’s versatility to dispense anything could help the overall business make up for any specific coffee deficiencies.
All of this coffee robot news had The Spoon founder, Mike Wolf, pondering if and when Starbucks will get into the robot barista business. Robots seem like the perfect way for Starbucks to deliver a consistent, quality, coffee experience at scale, and they are already in so many high-traffic areas, it makes sense for at least some of their locations.
Starbucks is undoubtedly exploring the idea and watching to see how people react to Cafe X and Briggo and now probably MontyCafe. If Starbucks buys into robot baristas, the robot coffee revolution won’t just be in America and Russia, it will be everywhere.