Normally we wouldn’t cover a gonna story. Like when a company says they are gonna do something. The Spoon likes to see actual results, not speculation, thank you very much.
But when robot barista company Briggo reached out to share some of their expansion plans for the coming year, I was intrigued. Whether by luck or rapidly assembled intention, Briggos’ announcement today comes on the heels of rival robo-coffee shop Cafe X shuttering three of its five locations.
There has also been a general sense of doom and gloom cast over the food robot industry in general as Zume shut down its pizza delivery business, and Creator was left stranded and unfunded by Softbank.
But you’d be hard pressed to think anything was wrong with the robot food business in talking with Kevin Nater, the Co-Founder and CEO of Briggo. I spoke with him by phone this week and Nater said five new automated Coffee Haus locations will go live in Q1 of this year, which is as many as the company launched in all of last year. Through its partnership with SSP America, Briggo plans to be in a dozen locations by the end of 2020.
One of the reasons Briggo can accelerate its install base is because it has moved its manufacturing to Foxconn. Previously Briggo was building every Coffee Haus by hand, but now Nater says “The Wisconsin facility can knock them out as fast as we can order them.” Depending on the location and permitting, Nater says they can get a Briggo machine up and running in a matter of weeks.
With SSP America doing business development for Briggo, Nater said that airports will continue to be a “huge focus” for the company. There are currently two Coffee Hauses in the Austin-Bergstrom Airport and one at San Francisco Airport (SFO).
As Briggo focuses on airports, and building out more locations, I asked Nater if that means the company will be pulling back on its own coffee creation ambitions. One part of Briggo’s business has been that it is also a coffee company that roasts its own beans. As it has expanded into new locations, it has also started offering coffees from roasters local to those areas (Sightglass in SFO, for instance). Nater said “Nope,” and that in addition to hosting other brands, Briggo will continue to sell its own coffee.
In addition to airports, Briggo opened up its first location inside a Whole Foods in Houston last fall. That Whole Foods happens to have 260 condos above it, and Nater said that condo owners are treating the Briggo almost like a personal coffee machine, ordering drinks with their phone in their condo and then coming downstairs to pick it up.
Given the recent setbacks for food robot-based startups, I asked Nater how he refers to their Coffee Hauses. Are they called “robots” or “machines” or something else, entirely? “We use the term robotic barista,” he said “to convey barista level quality.”
So Briggo is still in the robot business. It may strive to serve quality coffee, but we’re gonna have to watch to see if its automated approach translates into a scalable quantity.