Coffee is seen as an opportunity to catch up with friends, sit quietly among strangers, or unofficially pay a morning’s rent on your Starbucks office. Cafe X is putting a twist on that old barista model. Opened in San Francisco last month, the startup is opting instead to have a large robotic arm craft your caffeinated options. Baristas are nowhere to be seen at a new café in San Francisco.
Founder Henry Hu noticed that baristas spend a majority of their time moving cups around while making espresso drinks. Much like anyone’s natural reaction to that, Hu decided to build a fully mechanized coffee shop. Cafe X should be able to increase margins within the industry while reducing wait times for hurried patrons.
Order Coffee Using an App.
Customers at Cafe X Technologies get their caffeine fix from a robotic arm that prepares coffee like it would assemble a car on a factory floor. People can order lattes, cappuccinos, and espressos using a mobile app or by using one of the café’s iPad-powered kiosks. They then choose the kind of coffee beans they want, add flavorings if they wish, and then watch as a white, robotic arm goes to work.
Served by a Robotic Arm.
Customers can order their drinks directly at the kiosk of Cafe X or in advance through the Cafe X iOS or Android App. When their drink is ready, customers can then enter a four-digit order code at one of the kiosk’s tablets to be served by the robotic barista arm. Prices for drinks start at $2.25 for an 8-ounce cup. The prices vary depending on coffee selection.
The café looks like a giant coin-operated fortune-telling machine. These devices contain a robotic arm, several espresso machines, and a milk dispenser that sits behind a thick pane of glass.
Makes Coffee the Way You Want It.
Henry Hu and his staff programmed a Mitsubishi robotic arm, typically used to handle screws and bolts in industrial settings, to be a barista. The robotic arm grasps individual coffee cups and then slowly swivels to an espresso machine that pours without spilling a drop. If a customer wants milk or syrup, the arm reaches over to another machine that adds it. After doing that, the arm slowly drops the cup into a small opening for the customer take and sip.
Partnered with WMF Group.
The coffee-making feature of the Cafe X system comes from a partnership with the coffee division of the German WMF Group. They are the makers of fully automatic coffee machines. The Mitsubishi-made robotic arms of the system are able to do tasks like moving cups to dispensers for ingredients such as espresso, milk, and syrups.
The startup has been able to raise $5 million from companies like Khosla Ventures, Social Capital, entrepreneur Jason Calacanis, Felicis Ventures, Silicon Valley Bank, and The Thiel Foundation. The robot cafe mostly cleans itself. But its makers had to prove that to the city health department, which was unclear at first regarding whether to classify it as a mobile restaurant or vending machine.
Cafe X is a new line of coffee shop automating make food and to serve it. Cafe X launched first in Hong Kong and raised $5 million in venture funding, says beyond malls and airports. It is now targeting corporate and college campuses.