Just imagine this scenario: you wake up, log into your smartphone app, order a medium Americano with milk, whip down to the local café on the way to work, punch in your four-digit code, and a robot brews the perfect morning cup of coffee without skipping a beat in your morning routine. Café X – the first robotic café with locations in San Francisco and Hong Kong – is automating your daily caffeine fix.
The Way the Roaster Intended
Promising “precision crafted specialty coffee in seconds,” CEO Henry Hu, “guarantees every cup of coffee you are served from a Café X machine is how the roaster intended you to enjoy their coffee.” The San Francisco location is home to Gordon – the robotic barista encased behind a viewing glass – where beans from AKA Coffee, Verve Coffee Roasters, and Peet’s are roasted and served via Gordon’s robotic arm.
“There’s a lot that goes into coffee. The Café X system is designed for humans and robots to collaborate.”
Café X feels as if its robotic baristas free up much needed time for employees to focus on much more important operational tasks such as sourcing the best local coffee, calibrating equipment to fit roasters ideal brewing instructions, and creating new beverage configurations. “Smart robotics and machine learning working autonomously allowing our operations team to focus on sourcing and using fresh ingredients, maintaining high hygiene standards, and ensuring a great customer experience with every single interaction,” according to the company’s website.
Armed with a Mitsubishi 6-axis industrial strength claw, one Café X robot is capable of making up to 120 cups of coffee in an hour. Backed by $5 million in seed money from Khosla Ventures, Social Capital, Jason Calacanis, Felicis Ventures, Silicon Valley Bank and The Thier Foundation, Café X’s mission is to source coffee locally while reducing wait times for patrons. The end result: cheaper coffee prices ($2.25 for an 8 oz regular coffee instead of the $4-$5 average in San Fran) and more efficient service.
One of the key differentiators: working alongside local roasters to ensure proper calibration of the robotic baristas. Each roaster has their own optimal brewing instructions and by consistently calibrating robots like Gordon, there’s an element of quality assurance when trying to make the perfect espresso or latte. This is difficult to do with human baristas. The real question is, can Gordon replace that human barista that sometimes adds that extra personal touch to the coffee making experience? After waiting impatiently in line for a cup of coffee, Hu realized that “much of the baristas’ time was spent simply moving cups around.” This prompted his idea for Café X.
The Café X Business Model
With a business model that “simultaneously cuts costs and adds to the market budget” via robotics, you can head to Café X in the Metreon Shopping Center in San Francisco, punch in your four digit password, and watch your morning latte get made by Gordon. Unfortunately, this Barista won’t be greeting you with a smile or scribbling your name on the side of your coffee cup. Instead, you get to watch a robotic arm shoot your coffee down a mechanical elevator and delivered to you at the exact time you want it.
Setting the stage for franchising opportunities, Hu hopes to reduce the costs of opening a Café X location – making it cheaper to own and operate than the traditional, human-run coffee shop – estimated to run anywhere from $250,000 to $350,000.