SAN FRANCISCO -- Café X Technologies, in partnership with Germany's WMF, which makes fully automatic coffee machines, has developed a robotic café that blends the functionality of baristas with specialty coffee preparation methods. Café X is operating its first U.S. machine at the Metreon shopping center. The company said the highly trafficked area would be the blueprint for future locations.
Café X says it distinguishes itself from traditional coffeehouses by removing the onsite wait time, the potential for preparation error and the unexpected variability, setting a new standard for automation and specialty coffee service.
"I've long been a big coffee consumer and there's never a guaranteed seamless experience," Café X founder and chief executive Henry Hu said. "In today's world, you have two options for getting a cup of coffee: you're either in and out with something subpar or you're waiting in a 15-minute line for a great cappuccino. I started Café X to eliminate that inherent compromise and give people access to a tasty cup of coffee consistently and conveniently."
Customers can order customized espresso-based beverages on the spot at the kiosk or they can download the Café X app onto their mobile devices to order in advance. Once the beverage is ready, they use the touchscreens on the robotic café to type in a four-digit order number, which is either sent as a text message or displayed on the Café X mobile app. The Mitsubishi-made robotic arm then identifies the customer's drink from the waiting stations and delivers it within seconds.
Menu prices start at $2.25 for an 8-fl.oz. cup and will vary depending on coffee bean selection, which includes single-origin options.
"This won't replace baristas or the coffee shop experience that so many people have come to love -- we don't aim to do that," Hu said. "What we're offering is the best possible experience for people who are looking for consistent specialty coffee to go."
Café X is working with local roasters to source premium ingredients for distinctive drinks that can be programmed into the robotic café. For its inaugural machine in San Francisco, its roasting partners are AKA Coffee (Oakland), Verve Coffee Roasters (Santa Cruz) and Peet's Coffee & Tea (Berkeley).