Robot baristas now serving up coffee at San Francisco mall

Don’t forget to tip your barista…er..robot.

The next time you order your decaf soy latte with two and a half pumps of vanilla, it may not be a goatee-sporting barista that gives you your drink, but a mechanical arm.

Cafe X on Monday made its U.S. debut at the Metreon shopping center in San Francisco, unveiling a cafe where robots make and serve the coffee. The idea is to cut down on the time customers spend waiting for their drinks, and to ensure drinks are always prepared the same way, said founder and CEO Henry Hu.

“The idea came from me spending a lot of time waiting in line at cafes,” he said.

When you arrive at Cafe X, the first thing you do is browse the menu and place your order on an iPad. Then you put in your phone number and swipe your credit card.

A robot arm grabs a cup and places it under an automated coffee machine, which has been pre-programmed to brew your favorite fancy coffee espresso concoctions using beans and recipes from Peet’s, Verve Coffee Roasters and AKA Coffee. When it’s ready, the cafe sends a text to your phone with an order code. Enter the code at one of the three “delivery bays” set up around the cafe, and the robot arm will deliver the drink.

Feeling lazy? You can order through the cafe’s mobile app.

The robots can serve between 100 and 200 drinks per hour, Hu said, depending on the complexity of the drink orders.

Cafe X, which also has a storefront in Hong Kong, is planning to expand to other Silicon Valley locations, Hu said, including appearing in offices of local tech companies.

The cafe isn’t the first company to experiment with robotic food preparation in Silicon Valley — Mountain View-based Zume Pizza uses a series of robots to make its pies. As with any situation where robots are introduced into the workforce in new ways, there is bound to be worry that the machines are taking human jobs — in the case of Cafe X, stealing work from baristas.

But Hu says Cafe X still needs humans to clean and fill the coffee machines, and to walk customers through the ordering process.

“There’s a lot of human involvement in the Cafe X experience,” he said. “We just removed that very low productivity job of moving cups around.”

Photo: A Cafe X robot arm is shown holding a coffee cup. (Courtesy of Cafe X)


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  • This is really awesome, I sure would like to try this place “Cafe X”. On the flip side of this though I hope they have some really good cyber security and insurance because it will only be a matter of time before someone hacks this robot.

  • Skydoor Blue

    In other words, a coffee machine. Wow.