INTERNATIONAL - In the food industry, it seems, the robot revolution is well under way, with machines mastering tasks that have been performed by people.
In Boston, US, robots have replaced chefs and are creating complex bowls of food. In Prague, Czech Republic, machines are displacing bartenders using an app. In Denver, US, they’re taking orders at a fast-food drive-through.
Now comes Briggo, a company that has created a fully automated, robotic brewing machine that can push out 100 cups of coffee in a single hour, equalling the output of three to four baristas, according to the company.
Using a blend of Latin American beans, the machine, known as a “coffee haus”, creates customised cups of gourmet coffee that can be ordered via an app, giving customers control over ingredients, espresso shots, flavourings and temperature without any human interaction.
The company says no other business in the world has applied as much technology to “specialty coffee”.
Removing the human element from ordering a cup of coffee is one of the company’s primary selling points.
“No more lines, no more confusion, no more misspelled names,” Briggo’s website says.
Briggo said all eight of its machines are owned by the company, but they’ve recently begun offering a licensed business model to prospective operators.
The company didn’t reveal how much that business model costs, but noted that rent and revenue-sharing arrangements are typical when a machine is placed in a public location, such as an airport.
Kevin Nater, Briggo’s president and chief executive, said the machine would thrive in locations in which convenience is highly valued.
“Imagine you’re coming into the security line at the airport, your flight is coming up, and you know that if you want a coffee you’re gong to stand in a long line,” said Nater.
“You can simply order your cup of coffee and make it to your flight on time. We’ve just changed the game.”
It seems others agree. This year, Fast Company named the Austin, Texas-based company one of the 10 most innovative companies in the world.
Assuming both companies grow, Briggo may someday compete with Cafe X, an automated coffee bar from San Francisco, US, that uses assembly line-style machines that promise your cup of joe will be engineered with “robotic precision”.
The machines arrive at a time when ready-to-drink coffee continues to explode in popularity.
Nater said he has no doubt his machine makes cups of coffee as well, if not better, than a human barista. Referring to the robot as a “high speed, totally controlled food factory”, he said that unlike human workers a machine doesn’t get flustered when business gets busy.
By looking at analytics, he said, he can ensure the robot is hitting “all of it’s quality marks”.
But Oliver Geib, 24, a barista at Ceremony Coffee Roasters in Annapolis, Maryland, remained sceptical. As coffee is being made by a barista, he said, subtly gauging the ratio of water to grind as flavour develops through refined taste tests, is a crucial part of the process.
“All the numbers and data in the world can’t tell you how the coffee tastes,” Geib said. “A big part of what a human brings is being able to taste the coffee while dialling in the flavour.”
Asked how Briggo would impact employment, Nater said food service companies have a hard time retaining workers and are often short on staff, especially in airports where turnover is high.
“We don’t think we’re replacing people,” he said. “We are creating a high tech retail and marketing business and developing jobs in the process. We just hired two people in the Bay Area, where we are opening a new location soon.”