Those of you still going to airports can once again grab a robot-made coffee at the San Francisco International Airport. Cafe X re-opened its automated barista kiosk in Terminal 3 at SFO earlier this week.
Cafe X had shuttered both of its airport locations (the other one was at the San Jose Airport) last year as the global COVID-19 pandemic decimated air travel. We reached Cafe X Founder and CEO, Henry Hu via Twitter today. He told us that the SFO location was actually closed by the airport because Terminal 3 was seeing so little use. Hu said SFO gave Cafe X the greenlight to re-open recently, as traffic there has ticked back up.
When we last spoke with Hu in August, he said that despite the SFO and San Jose airport closures, Cafe X was still in talks to place its robo-barista at a number of other airports. Airport installations had been a key go-to market strategy for automated vending services and kiosks like Cafe X and Briggo (which is now Costa Coffee). Briggo had even signed a partnership with SSP America to place its robotic baristas in 25 airports throughout 2020 and 2021.
But as noted, the pandemic closed off airports as high-volume locations. Automated food services had to look elsewhere for places where a lot of people want food and beverages quickly.
However, with multiple vaccines beginning to be distributed this year, we could actually see an increase in airport deals for automated vending companies. There will be a lot of pent up desire to travel as the population gets vaccinated, and those returning to the friendly skies will want/need a fresh hot cup of coffee. Cafe X’s robot barista can not only make a mean latte, it also does so in a more contactless way than traditional coffee shops. Perhaps this combination will help Cafe X take off.