The world is constantly progressing towards a future where nearly everything is achievable through automation. Automation not only stands to help reduce physical labour but, in most cases, improves consistency and efficiency.
While there is no argument to the benefits of automation, when we come to the humble coffee shop, there seems to be a clear divide between two very separate schools of thought. In the below, we will not be discussing particular automation systems or machines, but the fundamental advantages and disadvantages of having automation in your coffee shop.
Why Coffee Shops Are Different
Traditional coffee shops are somewhat different to any other modern-day retail. In most retail today, efficiency is key. Fast food shops pride themselves in how quickly they can serve new customers and how quickly they can get already served customers out of the door. In this sense, coffee shops are different.
Coffee shops strive to give the customer a great experience, a pleasant atmosphere, a nice chat with your favourite barista and a great cup of coffee. While great coffee is always a key element to drawing customer, it isn’t always what keeps the customers coming back. A coffee shop with a great atmosphere and conversation will almost always build a loyal customer base, customers who rely on the experience, not just coffee.
Advantages Of Automation For Coffee Shops
In many retail industries, automation is used to increase efficiency and speed, in local coffee shops, this should not be the case. Increasing the speed of service will inevitably cut down on interaction time and, possibly, cut down on customer satisfaction. Automation in coffee shops should be used not to replace baristas, but free them up.
Less constant workload for the baristas will allow them not only to serve more customers but have more time for customer interactions. More customer interaction should aid in overall customer satisfaction. Automation for small coffee shops is not to increase efficiency, but to increase customer satisfaction while providing a consistently good cup of coffee every time.
Disadvantages Of Automation For Coffee Shops
Making the perfect cup of coffee is a specific skill that takes a lot of practice, so much practice that many people consider it a form of artistic expression. Automation stands to reduce the artisanal flare of a coffee shop, where the coffee no longer comes from a person but a machine. Most coffee shops do operate with a lot of machinery to make the coffee, but still rely heavily on the skill of the barista operating the machines.
Completely automated machines will still rely on the skill of making coffee to find the perfect recipe, but that is not as apparent to the customer who would just see a barista pressing a few buttons on a machine. Then we come to one of the biggest problems of automation for a small-scale coffee shop, the price. Automation can be an expensive undertaking, unless your coffee shop has a healthy customer base, the price may not be worth the potential benefit.