The new year will bring a new robot barista to the U.S., courtesy of Robojo. The company is the exclusive distributor of Germany’s MyAppCafe automated coffee kiosk, and plans to install its first machine stateside on January 16th.
The MyAppCafe machine is an 11 ft. wide by 7 ft. deep standalone kiosk capable of 250 different drink/tea combinations (including iced drinks), can make four drinks simultaneously, and can pump out 100 drinks per hour.
Robojo is bringing the MyAppCafe to market through straight purchase/leasing deals with big institutions like universities or military bases, and is not looking to franchise out its own brand at this time. Robojo declined to say who it’s first installation is with, and did not disclose pricing.
While there are a lot of robotic baristas coming to market, Robojo is looking to set itself apart from the competition with one key feature — customized, on-demand foam printing.
Why This Matters
While there are other robot baristas like Know’s InBot that promise to pretty up your drink with latte art, Robojo is taking this whole concept to a new level by allowing you to customize your latte with your face.
When you place an order with the MyAppCafe machine using your mobile phone, you have the option of uploading a picture from your photo library (or taking one). As your drink is being made, the robot prints that image onto your drink. (If you order through the on-board tablet, you can choose form a library of images.)
Sure, drinking a latte with your mug on the top may not be the most important part of your coffee. But it’s a hook, and in our selfie-obsessed culture, the ability to print your face on latte foam will surely be enough to entice first time users — who will then go on to post selfies with their coffee selfies. Once hooked by the novelty, and assuming the drink is delicious, customers will already know how the machine works and choose it for a latte on the go.
Ben Czajka of Robojo told me that six MyAppCafe’s are being produced for the U.S. right now, and there is a 16 week lead time (depending on the global supply chain issues) for future orders as of now.
While other players in the robotic coffee space like Smyze, mia&noa and Crown Coffee are looking to build out their own brand, Robojo is placing more of an emphasis on the institutions that would install their own machine. A university may want to open up a new cafe, but might not have the space or resources to build and staff a dedicated store. With Robojo and MyAppCafe, the university could build and even co-brand its own coffee kiosk in almost any building, that could operate all day, and require minimal human maintenance and restocking.
But will German engineering and printable latte art be enough to separate Robojo from the crowd? Well, honestly, there won’t be enough robot baristas in the market to cause much competition and picking and choosing over the next year. Robot baristas will still be rare enough that any robo-latte will be a novel latte for most. But having your face on a drink might provide the right kind of human touch with your robot-powered coffee.