The bottom is dropping out of their employment-of-last-resort:
Starbucks’ 95,000 baristas have a competitor. It doesn’t need sleep. It’s precise in a way that a human could never be. It requires no training. It can’t quit. It has memorized every one of its customers’ orders. There’s never a line for its perfectly turned-out drinks.
It doesn’t require health insurance.
Don’t think of it as the enemy of baristas, insists Kevin Nater, CEO of the company that has produced this technological marvel. Think of it as an instrument people can use to create their ideal coffee experience. Think of it as a cure for “out-of-home coffee drinkers”—Nater’s phrase—sick of an “inconsistent experience.”
Think of it as the future. Think of it as empowerment. Your coffee, your way, flawlessly, every time, no judgments. Four pumps of sugar-free vanilla syrup in a 16 oz. half-caff soy latte? Here it is, delivered to you precisely when your smartphone app said it would arrive, hot and fresh and indistinguishable from the last one you ordered.
In a common area at the University of Texas at Austin, the Briggo
coffee kiosk, covered in fake wood paneling and a touch screen and not
much else, takes up about as much space as a pair of phone booths. Its
external appearance was designed by award-winning industrial designer Yves Behar,
with the intention that it radiate authenticity and what Briggo says is
its commitment to making coffee that is the equal of what comes out of
any high-end coffee shop.
The kiosk at the university is the second version, the one that will
be rolling out across the country in locations that are still secret. It
needs just 50 square feet (4.6 sq m) of floor space, and it can be
dropped anywhere—an airport, a hospital, a company campus, a cafe with
tables and chairs and WiFi just like Starbucks. It’s manufactured in
Inside, protected by stainless steel walls and a thicket of patents,
there is a secret, proprietary viscera of pipes, storage vessels,
heating instruments, robot arms and 250 or so sensors that together do
everything a human barista would do if only she had something like
Robo-baristas may be what finally pops the higher education bubble.