(TC) The world’s first coffee shop opened in Constantinople in 1555. Four hundred and some years later, Cafe X is putting a twist on that old barista model. Opening in San Francisco today, the startup is opting instead to have a large robotic arm craft your caffeinated potions.
Founder Henry Hu noticed that baristas spent a majority of their time moving cups around while making espresso drinks. So, much like anyone’s natural reaction to that epiphany, Hu decided to build a fully mechanized coffee shop. At scale, Cafe X should be able to increase margins within the industry while reducing wait times for hurried patrons.
Third-wave coffee affectionados dealing in drips and expensive siphons might find fault in Hu’s thesis, though a Mitsubishi 6-axis industrial robot is arguably the most “elite” tool imaginable for making coffee.
Customers visiting Cafe X’s first US location at the AMC Metreon in San Francisco will be able to order espresso drinks involving milk and flavorings from on-site kiosks and a dedicated app. Visitors have their choice of beans from AKA Coffee, Verve Roasters and Peet’s Coffee. Cafe X’s only other location is in the Hong Kong Science Park. The idea is that each new location can source beans locally.
The funding underscores a broader trend in the Valley of VCs backing food and beverage startups using robotics to cut costs. TechCrunch covered Zume Pizza, a robot-assisted pizza delivery service headquartered in Mountain View last September. The Zume team raised its Series A in July 2016.The entire experiment is backed by a $5 million seed round raised last year from Khosla Ventures, Social Capital, Jason Calacanis, Felicis Ventures, Silicon Valley Bank and The Thiel Foundation.