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Robots Are the Baristas at SoMa’s New Cafe X

At least they won’t spell your name wrong

Cafe X robot serves coffee
Cafe X

Robots have been assimilating into restaurant work seamlessly, taking over the repetitive tasks that free up humans for more creative endeavors. Companies like Zume Pizzeria, DoorDash, and Momentum Machines (the tech company behind the upcoming robotic hamburger restaurant in SoMa) are all utilizing robots to improve the experience for diners, and workers behind the scenes. Now coffee is getting the robot treatment, with the opening of Cafe X in the Metreon.

It’s the first U.S. location of the “cafe” (the other is in Hong Kong), which is really a small glass-enclosed kiosk in which a robotic arm prepares cups of coffee. According to a release, Cafe X’s main functions are to improve on-site wait time, the potential for human error in preparation, and “unexpected variability.”

For many, coffee is not just a necessary caffeine boost, it is a guaranteed human interaction that is a part of a daily routine. Yet, according to the company, “Cafe X is solving for the time and quality compromises that consumers are forced to make with daily coffee rituals.”

Cafe X

The cafe will serve espresso drinks within seconds after ordering at the kiosk, or from an app ahead of time. The bots prepare the coffee, humans enter an order number that is sent either via text or app; the robotic arm then grabs the correct drink and puts it on a little platform that delivers it to a small window.

CEO Henry Hu says that Cafe X isn’t intended to replace the “coffee shop experience,” but offers a strong option for coffee drinkers in a rush. So basically, it’s Starbucks with better coffee —participating roasters include Oakland’s AKA Coffee, Verve, and Peet’s— and robots who won’t spell your name wrong. As far as the roasters are concerned, it’s an opportunity to reach new customers.

Coffee drinkers can stop by Cafe X now for a cup at the Metreon (135 4th St). Drinks start at $2.25 for an 8 ounce cup, varying based on which beans users choose. Options include Americanos, cortados, cappuccinos, lattes, espresso, and flat whites.

FYI: Cafe X Technologies is privately backed, and includes funding from The Thiel Foundation, among others.