Robot-Staffed Coffee Shop Opens in San Francisco

What the barista at Cafe X lacks in human warmth it makes up for in efficiency. Customers input orders into a digital kiosk and receive their coffee by way of a robotic arm.

After opening their first store in the Hong Kong Science Park, Cafe X recently launched a second location at the AMC Metreon in San Francisco, TechCrunch reports. Though the setup may look intimidating, purchasing a drink is simple. Patrons with the Cafe X app can skip the kiosk and place an order directly from their phones. When the coffee is automatically brewed to perfection, customers punch their order numbers into a touch screen and the Mitsubishi industrial robot arm delivers the drinks seconds later.

It’s easy to imagine similar robots replacing human employees in coffee shops around the world, but Cafe X founder Henry Hu says that’s not his intention. Rather, he wants to zero-in on the specialty coffee service industry by finding a faster way to make top-tier espresso. “This won’t replace baristas or the coffee shop experience that so many people have come to love—we don’t aim to do that,“ Hu said in a release. “What we’re offering is the best possible experience for people who are looking for consistent specialty coffee to-go.”

The lack of labor costs does come through in the prices—8-ounce drinks start at $2.25. And of course, Cafe X still has some people to pay, like on-site specialists whose job it is to answer your coffee-related questions.

[h/t TechCrunch]

Big Questions
What Is Fair Trade?

What is fair trade?

Shannon Fisher:

Fair trade is a system of manufacturing and purchasing intended to:

1) level the economic playing field for underdeveloped nations; and

2) protect against human rights abuses in the Global South.

Fair trade farmers are guaranteed fair market prices for their crops, and farm workers are guaranteed a living wage, which means workers who farm fair trade products and ingredients are guaranteed to earn enough to support their families and comfortably live in their communities. There are rules against inhumane work practices. Fair trade farming organizations are monitored for a safe work environment, lack of discrimination, the freedom to organize, and strict adherence to child labor laws. Agrochemicals and GMOs are also forbidden. If these rules are not followed, a product will not receive fair trade certification.

The quality of life in many communities producing fair trade-certified goods is greatly improved. Sometimes, farming communities are given profit sharing from the companies that source their ingredients, and those profits go to improving the community as a whole—be it with a library, medical facilities, town infrastructure, or opening small businesses to support the residents. A major goal of fair trade is to help foster sustainable development around the globe. By helping farming communities in third-world countries, the economy of the entire region gets a boost.

This post originally appeared on Quora. Click here to view.

m01229, Flickr // CC BY 2.0
Dunkin' Donuts is Ditchin' Their Foam Cups
m01229, Flickr // CC BY 2.0
m01229, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

There are certain tactile sensations that consumers associate with fast-service franchises. Go into a McDonald’s and you’re likely to walk out with a French fry container soaked in grease. Head to Taco Bell and your takeout bag will be heavy with hot sauce packets. At Dunkin’ Donuts, a thick-walled foam cup keeps your hand cool while your coffee stays hot.

Not for much longer. This week, Dunkin’ announced plans to insulate their beverages in a more environmentally friendly way. Beginning this spring, the company will eliminate the polystyrene foam containers they currently use in favor of a new, double-walled paper cup, a move that's expected to remove 1 billion foam cups from waste streams annually.

The paperboard used in the cups—which will come in the chain’s standard four sizes, from small to extra large—is certified to the Sustainable Forestry Initiative Standard and is said to have heat retention properties equivalent to the current foam cup. Dunkin’ is promising that consumers won’t need a cardboard sleeve to insulate themselves against the heat.

“With more than 9000 Dunkin’ Donuts restaurants in the U.S. alone, our decision to eliminate foam cups is significant for both our brand and our industry," Karen Raskopf, Dunkin’ Donuts's chief communications and sustainability officer, said in a statement. “We have a responsibility to improve our packaging, making it better for the planet while still meeting the needs of our guests. Transitioning away from foam has been a critical goal for Dunkin’ Donuts U.S., and with the double-walled cup, we will be able to offer a replacement that meets the needs and expectations of both our customers and the communities we serve.”

The move is scheduled to begin in New York and California and spread to all Dunkin’ locations worldwide by 2020.


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