Automated Cafe Sets Up Shop In Tech-Crazy, Fancy Coffee-Loving San Francisco

By Tracey Lien
Los Angeles Times

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) An automated coffee shop in California called “Cafe X” is the latest example of San Francisco’s dual infatuations: artisanal coffee and automated technology.

SAN FRANCISCO

As Katy Franco waited for her morning coffee, passersby pulled out their phones and snapped photos and video of her barista.

A man in his 20s did a double take, recorded the scene on his iPhone and posted it to Instagram. Another woman drifted toward the barista and asked no one in particular: “What’s going on here?”

Franco’s barista was a robot. It’s part of an automated coffee shop called Cafe X, the latest example of the San Francisco’s dual infatuations: artisanal coffee and automated technology.

“It’s incredibly convenient,” said Franco, who has used Cafe X twice since it opened at the end of January. “And the coffee is really good too.”

Moments earlier, Franco had ordered her coffee using the Cafe X mobile app. Now a white robotic arm, the same kind used in car manufacturing facilities, was moving around a paper cup, pushing on syrup levers and brewing her a hot cup of coffee.

“I prefer this because you don’t have to wait,” said Franco, whose coffee was made in less than a minute. “It even accepts PayPal.”

Comments like Franco’s ring as validation to Henry Hu’s ears. Hu, a 23-year-old college dropout who founded Cafe X, envisioned his coffee kiosk as the answer to long waits at coffee shops: a well-made cup of coffee delivered quickly, efficiently and at a relatively low cost.

A flat white at Cafe X is $2.95, compared with $3.75 at Starbucks, no tip required.

On the speed front, Cafe X can make a hot espresso beverage in less than a minute and is able to pump out 120 coffee drinks in an hour. A Cafe X kiosk can occupy as little as 50 square feet, although its footprint in San Francisco’s Metreon shopping mall is a little over 100 square feet and was most recently home to another automated tenant: a Bank of America ATM.

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