Coffee is one of those habits around which much ritual has cropped up. You go to the cafe, if you're lucky your barista knows your order and gives you a warm smile, and you savor that first delightful sip. So are we ready for a robot to take charge of our brew?
That's the bet that Miso Robotics, whose dexterous robot fry cooks are already slinging burgers and chicken wings at fast food restaurants, is making. Miso is launching a new coffee system and the first partner is Panera Bread.
To be sure, technology and coffee are no strangers. From pods to Aeropress, the hunt for a perfect cup has gone on as long as beans have been roasted. Panera is betting the efficiency and quality of a system that continually monitors coffee status using AI and customized metrics will appeal to patrons.
The subplot here is the rapid automation of the quick serve restaurant industry, which is reeling from labor shortages and struggling to keep up with high demand coming out of the worst lockdowns of the pandemic. There's now a real sense that momentum is shifting toward robotic systems to add greater efficiency to human-led, front-of-house operations.
"Panera has a long history of tech innovation in service of meeting the needs of our guests and associates when they walk through our doors each day," said George Hanson, SVP and Chief Digital Officer of Panera. "CookRight Coffee is a game changer when it comes to convenience and operational efficiency, and we are extremely excited to take our coffee station into the future with Miso Robotics."
Miso is on a bit of a tear, having followed up its burger robot, Flippy 2, with a tortilla chip making robot in partnership with Chipotle. Automation seems well paired with rising takeout demand during a pandemic-influenced tight labor market. Delivery, takeout, and drive-thru orders in particular have increased the need for speed just as demand is booming, and restaurants are having trouble keeping pace.
As I've written, one of the big draws for national brands at this early adoption stage is Miso's strategy is the speed and efficiency of a robotic system paired with unseen levels of customization. For Panera, Miso's CookRight Coffee system monitors coffee volume and temperature to brew at precisely the right time. Panera in turn can support a club-style membership program that gives members unlimited coffee and tea for $8.99 per month.
Miso previously partnered with Lancer Worldwide, a global beverage dispenser manufacturer, to roll out what's described as an intelligence-backed, automated beverage dispenser.
All of this has made Miso a popular investment with the crowdfund crowd. The company is a crowdfunding success story with over 18,000 shareholders and $50MM in crowdfunding to date and a Series E market valuation of $500 million.