Your next cappuccino or latte may be brewed by a robot barista.
Visitors to a convenience store at a service station in eastern China’s Hangzhou will find a robot installed on the premises to sell steaming hot coffee.
According to staff at an Easy Joy outlet in downtown Hangzhou, a convenience store chain owned and operated by Sinopec, one of the nation’s two largest refiners, the robot occupies only 1.5 sqm of space and is able to serve a cup of freshly brewed coffee every two minutes.
This is reportedly the first time Easy Joy has deployed a coffee-making robot at one of its outlets, combining a variety of technologies including robotics, IoT, AI and big data.
Consumers can order by scanning a QR code, choose their drinks and remove the coffee from the machine when ready.
The robot, designed with a look resembling an automatic vending machine, provides six types of coffee such as latte, americano, cappuccino and vanilla latte.
Prices range between 9.9 yuan (US$1.38) for americano and 12.9 yuan for vanilla latte.
Through a back-end management system, the robot monitors its own operational status in real time and displays information essential to running a coffeeshop, such as ingredients in stock and the number of cups sold.
This will trim the day-to-day management of coffee sales often associated with brick-and-mortar vendors.
As China’s coffee market flourishes, a number of tech startups have come on the scene in recent years. Some rolled out robots to automate coffee-making and selling, so as to pass on labor cost reductions to end consumers.
Easy Joy currently boasts 28,000 self-operated convenience stores nationwide. Since 2018, the business has launched its own coffee brand to sell brewed-on-the-spot coffee.
The introduction of robot baristas represents the store chain’s new attempt to expand consumer scenarios and deliver new user experiences.