| US

Cafe X nears funding target to expand robot coffee shop concept in the US

California-based robotic coffee shop start-up, Cafe X, has reportedly raised more than $9.4m in a $12m seed funding drive to expand automated business concept

Cafe X has raised more than 75% of its $12.1m funding goal for US expansion. The automated independent coffee shop currently operates a site with in-store seating and two kiosks in San Francisco. The concept allows customers to beat queues through a mobile ordering app and claims to offer a more efficient and consistent coffee shop experience by eliminating the scope for human error across brewing and service.

Cafe X founder and CEO, Henry Hu, is said to have been inspired to develop the fully coffee shop concept, which delivers fresh-brewed specialty coffee via a fully automated robotic arm system, after watching baristas repeat work routines at Singapore Changi Airport in 2015. With the aim making coffee service more efficient, Hu built a prototype with $100,000 funding from the Thiel Fellowship and the first Cafe X site opened in San Francisco in 2017.

By generating efficiencies through the removal of human error in their coffee shops, Cafe X will hope to capitalise on the significant proportion of US coffee shop consumers for whom convenience is paramount. Nearly half of US consumers surveyed by Allegra in 2017 stated speed of service to be more important than receiving a hand-crafted beverage.

The concept also appears to be targeting value-conscious consumers, with a standard espresso retailing at $3, Cafe X also offers a price point just above the US average of $2.93 recorded by Allegra in 2017. Its single origin range, delivered in partnership with prominent specialty roasters, including Intelligentsia Coffee, Ritual Coffee Roasters and Equator Coffees, costs $1 more, with nitro cold brew retailing at $4.

However, it remains to be seen how far Cafe X’s fully automated concept will be adopted into the mainstream. While many coffee shops are embracing increased automation, this is more frequently motivated by a desire increase staff engagement with customers. In June 2018, a survey by Eversys brand ambassador Matt Perger in 2018 revealed 73% of baristas would favour more automation so that they could better interact with customers when making coffee.

Cafe X isn’t alone in the world of robot baristas, in February 2018, Japan’s Henn-na Café, or ‘Strange Café’, debuted in Tokyo. The single-armed robot, operated by travel agency H.I.S. Co, is capable brewing fully automated coffee, but does not appear to have undergone the same level of development as Cafe X’s integrated coffee shop concept.


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