You’ve seen the videos of hot, fresh pizza coming from a machine or a robotic arm mixing cocktails and making coffee. No people equals no wages, which sounds like a good move in 2022, but what will your customers think? If their priorities are consistent quality, speed and value, automation can help us achieve that.

I spoke with Matt Lucas from the Coffee Pedaler cafes in Gundagai and Tumut in New South Wales, which cater to tourists and locals using automation. His typical customer is someone who wants an alternative to freeway fast food; they are prepared to pay a little extra, but do not want long wait times.

“We are most automated in our coffee setup,” says Lucas. “We use a Mahlkonig grinder for consistent dosing, a Puqpress for consistent tamping, a Slayer Steam LP 3-Group and Victoria Arduino Black Eagle 3-Group for espresso and an Ubermilk for high-quality, high-volume milk delivery.

“When using milk alternatives, we have temperature gauges on all jugs to increase temperature consistency. We also use Flow Coffee espresso diagnostics to help baristas remain focused on producing quality espresso according to our recipe parameter.”

Lucas examines the cost-benefit ratio before investing in any new technology. “I want to get a payback in less than a year on any equipment we invest in,” he says. “It was easy to work out the cost saving with Ubermilk based on the increased capacity of the baristas plus the decreased milk usage and the reduced wait times, which leads to the likelihood of a second coffee purchase.

“But for technology such as Flow Coffee analytics, it’s a bit longer and perhaps a less-tangible outcome as it’s primarily about the quality of the product rather than speed or decreased wastage. Each new system is looked at for the benefits that are likely to flow through to our business.”

As an investor in technology, Lucas is currently looking at some robotic systems to install at his two cafes. “How a robot interacts with human employees and possibly customers, along with other IT infrastructure and existing equipment installations, will be a game-changer in hospitality,” he says.

“I don’t believe the future of hospitality in Australia is customer-robot interaction but rather robot-food/beverage production with humans providing the differentiating experience.”

Image credit: Analytics Insight