Are we saying goodbye to our local baristas?
Will your local Barista soon become victim to automation and robot technology?
Are you guilty of walking past a café to check who the barista is before ordering your coffee? Or waiting and watching to see if they purge and clean the steam wand? What if the barista was replaced by a robot and you no longer had human error to contend with? Is this type of automation, the future of coffee?
A recent article by Inc.com discussed a robot barista that was being trialled by Melbourne cafe, Once Alike.
The article went on the describe the robot as incredible with “two fully functioning arms that did absolutely everything that a human barista would do. You went up to the keypad, typed in your request, right down to what kind of milk you would like and how many sugars you want. Once the order is confirmed, you step back and watch the orchestra begin to play.
It was mesmerizing to watch the two arms working in unison, doing everything your regular human barista would do. The bottom line, in a few minutes, the coffee arrives, lid firmly in place, your name comes up on the order board and the coffee is ready to be enjoyed. The verdict from my partner in coffee tasting, Lalita Lowe, was definitive and while not perfect, she stated emphatically “that the quality was an 8 out 10” on her coffee scale.
While reviewing some of the online chatter about Robot Rocky (that’s the name that this Robot Barista is fondly known by), one common theme began to emerge. There were many comments from coffee aficionados (of which Melbourne has millions), stating that they didn’t like the idea of having a robot make them coffee, no matter how good it was or how cute his nickname was. Their reasoning was that they formed a relationship with their barista of choice, and this is an almost spiritual relationship and certainly not one to be replaced by a robot.”
The developers of the Robot Barista made it very clear that they never really intended Rocky to replace the overall cafe experience. Liam Wilkie, one of the engineers behind the project and a barista himself for over 10 years explained, “the entire set up fits into a tiny space, it’s completely self-sufficient, right down to having its own water supply, meaning these fully automatic cafes can be set up in spaces that would not normally be able to accommodate a full-time coffee shop.
With the demand for coffee still in positive growth and niche coffee brands in particular forging ahead will Artificial Intelligence take over?
In our opinion we don’t think so. While obviously we believe that automation has a place within the café environment such as Caffe Assist, this automation is to support the Barista and the business overall by saving labour and wastage amongst other things. Having also owned a café for a number of years the art to a successful business is as much about serving amazing coffee as it is about providing genuine ongoing great customer service and creating a family type environment between your barista and customers. Tell us what you think?