It opened only yesterday and it already enjoys enormous popular within the coffee lovers’ community: San Francisco Café X is the first coffee bar where your drinks are made and served by robots. Silicon Valley’s latest food-tech experiment: the future of food is here!
Have you ever dreamt of replacing that grumpy barman at your favourite café with a less pesky barista? Now your dreams are becoming true: Café X in South of Market (San Francisco) is changing the face of the old the “coffee shop model” and gives you the possibility to get your cup of coffee served by a nice robotic harm. Mourning the loss of the good old human interactions? Well, at least the robot spares you the pain of having your name misspelt.
Hosted in San Francisco’s popular shopping centre, Metreon, Café X is the first location of the chain to open in the US (the other is in Hong Kong). Despite the undoubted originality of the experiment, it is not the first of its kind: previous attempts at developing fully automated diners had been made by other businesses in the same area. Some examples? Zume Pizza, the robot-assisted pizza delivery service headquartered in Mountain View, and Momentum Machines, the tech company which is developing the robotic hamburger-making restaurant in SoMa.
Backed by an initial $5 million investment (as reported on TechCrunch), collected in 2016 thanks to some of the major Silicon Valley players, Café X’s main goal is to offer better time efficiency by reducing on-site waiting lists and offer better quality by reducing the potential for human error during preparation.
Café X: how does it look like?
Yes, but how does a robotic-only café look life? A simple glass kiosk with an automated arm enclosed, preparing and serving your favourite hot beverages. The choice is wide: from espressos to flavoured lattes, you can order anything you fancy either from the machine on the spot or through the dedicated Café X app. Visitors have a pretty decent choice of beans and blends, too: among others, AKA Coffee, Verve, Roasters and Peet’s Coffee.
…And how does it work?
Check TechCrunch video interview to Henri Hu to get a feel for it.
The end of “the café experience”?
CEO Henry Hu said, in a recent interview published on Eater, that Café X’s intention is not to dismiss the traditional “coffee shop experience” but rather to offer a valid alternative to coffee lovers who have limited time to enjoy their favourite cups.
“I noticed that baristas spent most their time moving cups around while making espresso drinks”, said Hu, whose little experiment could manage to simultaneously cut costs and increase the revenues. Considering the immediate success of the project, plans are already being discussed to open more kiosks across the country: among the most probable locations, California is first in line.
Does it sound too extreme? Are we pushing at the boundaries of food tech and breaking the rules of the (sacred) coffee break? Time will tell whether the grab and go model is deemed to flourish or if there are golden coffee rules that not even tech can break. Certainly, a combination of clever marketing strategy and the natural SoMa inclination to be home to many tech people might help to let Café X’s fame last a bit longer.