Will the next big thing since Starbucks be run by robots?

Discussion
Photo: Briggo
Aug 08, 2019
George Anderson

Travelers and workers at San Francisco International Airport have a new place to get coffee. Don’t expect any pleasant smiles from the staff, however, as the newest coffee stop is run completely by robotics. 

Briggo Coffee’s robotic Coffee Haus lets consumers place orders using its mobile app or touchscreens at the stand (located at Terminal 3, Gate 72 at SFIA). Customers can place custom orders for cappuccinos, lattes and several gourmet coffee and tea drinks. The system can make up to 100 drinks per hour using custom whole bean blends along with fresh dairy and gourmet syrups.

The system keeps drinks ordered remotely in a locked area until the customer arrives for pickup. Coffee Haus sends a text message to the person ordering so they can unlock their drink upon arrival. With its new spot in San Francisco, Briggo now has its 40-square-foot robotic kiosks in nine locations. Each one, which can operate 24/7, can generate over $12,000 in dollar sales per square foot, according to its maker.

Briggo has teamed up with Lyft in San Francisco to promote its newest Coffee Haus. People who purchase a drink from the new location are eligible for a 15 percent discount on their next ride to or from the airport.

Briggo is not alone in trying to put robotics to work in the coffee category. The technology blog Nanalyze has reported that at least half a dozen startups from Australia, Japan, Russia and the U.S. are experimenting with their own takes on robotic baristas.

The March issue of The Economist highlights Café X, that has three locations in San Francisco that use robotic technology to prepare drinks for customers. Orders, as with Coffee Haus, can be placed via an app or touchscreen. Unlike the Briggo system, however, Café X has human attendants on hand to talk with customers. 

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Do you see robotics playing a more prominent role in coffee and other foodservice industries in the near future? Are there any uses of robotics, particularly inside foodservice or retail, that you think will have currency on a broad basis going forward?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.
Braintrust
"This has legs, especially at airports! "
"Business leaders need to be careful about how they use robotics and need to remember and understand the importance of what humans do that machines cannot."
"Let’s be honest here: this is a bigger, shinier vending machine. It’s cool, it’s convenient and I can’t wait to see how long it takes people to figure out the touch screen."

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13 Comments on "Will the next big thing since Starbucks be run by robots?"


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Ben Ball
BrainTrust

This is absolutely a thing. A related experience with a client showed consumers quite willing to get their favorite drink from a robot barista. The keys to customer satisfaction are consistency and freshness. As long as the system begins with high quality ingredients (and fresh ground beans allows the machines to fit that bill) the consistency and freshness become a given. This is a winner.

Bob Amster
BrainTrust

The positives are that it will be consistent service and fast (unless long lines begin forming at the stand). The negatives are that it will be a limited menu that can be served this way and the customer with more time and appetite may want to pick from a wider assortment and sit down at a table. Echoes of the Automat by Horn & Hardart…

Art Suriano
Guest
There is no doubt that the role of robotics in business will continue to increase. It will happen because despite what business leaders say about how this will free up associates to provide better assistance, the truth is it will save them money. However the public will balk at some of the robotic uses, especially when it is a task they prefer handled by a human. Making coffee might be one of them.  It starts with the curiosity of seeing robotics in place and a feeling of “wow” we’re living in the Star Trek world.  However, when customers feel that the robots are not providing the same quality as humans, such as when making coffee, what a business might be saving on payroll will soon work against them. Years ago, a company came out with computerized bartending machines, and they were showing up in the newer bars. Bartenders rather than fix a drink for their customer pushed a button, and before their eyes, a drink adequately mixed with the exact amounts of alcohol came pouring in the glass. Customers soon realized the… Read more »
Neil Saunders
BrainTrust

Anything that reduces labor costs will be of interest to retailers and this kind of automation ticks that box. That said, while this will likely work in on-the-go locations where human interaction is probably less important than getting a product quickly and efficiently, I think it will work less well in places where social interaction is valued by customers.

So I can see a blended use of this technology and human staff in traditional coffee shops. Perhaps the machine focuses on making coffee and serving customers at the drive-thru and human staff still greet and take orders within the store. Even so, fewer staff will be needed overall.

Georganne Bender
BrainTrust

Let’s be honest here: this is a bigger, shinier vending machine. It’s cool, it’s convenient and I can’t wait to see how long it takes people to figure out the touch screen. Grabbing food at airport sandwich shops that require customers to order via an iPad is always a waiting nightmare.

Copy in the video says the Briggo machine is “sophisticated & consistent enough to match barista skills.” Well, maybe for its limited menu, but certainly not for the gazillion beverages baristas at Starbucks are asked to create every day. But will it play a role in the food service industry? Absolutely.

David Naumann
BrainTrust
David Naumann
Retail Industry Analyst
1 year 2 months ago

Coffee vending machines have been around for years and most create horrible coffee, but some are actually quite good. Coffee is a perfect opportunity to improve with robotics, especially if they can speed up the process. At airports, the lines for Starbucks locations are typically super long and I often forego my coffee because I don’t want to wait in line.

Robotics have been experimented with in food production as well, but that is more complex. However, robotics will eventually replace humans for any tasks that are repetitive.

David Weinand
BrainTrust

This has legs, especially at airports! The daily Starbucks customer often has a relationship with their local Barista and that has a draw. As anyone who travels knows, the people serving coffee at airports are NOT the draw – they are usually miserable and unfriendly. A self serve robotic kiosk would be a strong draw as long as standards of quality are met.

Ralph Jacobson
BrainTrust

At the risk of oversimplifying, how truly different is this from the original coffee vending machine? I think we need to look at all traditional retailing outlets and take advantage of robotics, AI and every other emerging technology available to really innovate. P.S., how long have robots been around? It’s good to see we’re finally getting serious.

Rich Kizer
BrainTrust

During my morning trips to Starbucks, I watch how many cars block the entry to the store because they are picking up their phone order. Thus people are using machines. To be very clear, it isn’t hard after you type in the same drink with additions everyday. Have you been to the McDonalds kiosk? I’ve watched. Most get so lost that the staff has to make a trip out to help them while other customers at the counter wait. So much for speed of service. The point? Regular usage and repeating ordering, as in ordering the same drink, or a burger with light onions and mustard only, probably is the key to building the robotic barista acceptability.

Ananda Chakravarty
BrainTrust

Robotics isn’t new for QSRs and the ability is there to handle large SKU assortments. It’s an incremental shift from the current trend pushing self service. Coca-Cola rolled out the Freestyle machine around 2011. It can handle dozens of flavors and product types. The newest Keurig machines and similar ones have become a regular trend for hot beverages. It’s a logical move to merge these capabilities together. We’ll see more of these – but quality and perception of quality will be a limiting factor for the unmanned devices. We’ll miss the human touch however, and sometimes the kick in the morning is a friendly smile and an off-the-cuff joke about the weather.

Patricia Vekich Waldron
Staff

Guests will appreciate robots for quick transactions, so airports and coffee are a perfect combination.

Sterling Hawkins
BrainTrust

I don’t think there’s any question that robotics will play a more prominent role in coffee and foodservice in the future. But that doesn’t mean humans aren’t ever involved — it starts to free people up to focus on things that humans are just better at: customer interaction, developing the experiences around the robots, etc. The unrelenting march of technology will continue on. It’s up to us to make sure we’re using them to improve human experiences, not just replace them.

Michael La Kier
BrainTrust

While Briggo Coffee’s robotic Coffee Haus can replace Starbucks coffee, they will never replace Starbucks. Starbucks is much more than the beverage, it’s the beverage experience. But the Coffee Haus robots can certainly fill a big niche where and when people are looking for a fix and a shop is impractical to visit or unavailable — think of this as a walk-up drive-thru. Of course, the coffee must be good!

wpDiscuz
Braintrust
"This has legs, especially at airports! "
"Business leaders need to be careful about how they use robotics and need to remember and understand the importance of what humans do that machines cannot."
"Let’s be honest here: this is a bigger, shinier vending machine. It’s cool, it’s convenient and I can’t wait to see how long it takes people to figure out the touch screen."

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