“Humans can be unpredictable; let the robot make your coffee” is the tagline behind Botbar Coffee, a robot-run coffee shop “coming soon” to Brooklyn. The business recently put up signage at 666 Manhattan Avenue, between Norman and Bedford avenues, a stretch of Greenpoint home to a handful of cafes. Sunny Lam, a manger at Botbar, confirms in an email that the shop should be serving food within the next two weeks.
The Manhattan Avenue storefront is Botbar’s first location. The coffee shop appears to be the first of its kind in the city, although robots pulling espresso shots isn’t necessarily new. In California, a robotic arm has been making drinks at San Francisco International Airport since 2021. In Seattle, coffee start-up Artly recently raised $8.3 million to open a line of automated cafes.
At Botbar, a two-armed robotic barista programmed with drink orders sits atop the counter. The coffee shop is a client of Richtech Robotics, a robotics manufacturer based in Las Vegas, Nevada, which claims its robots can make up to 50 drinks an hour, including cocktails and bubble tea. In between orders, they gesture at customers and dance.
According to Botbar’s website, customers will place their orders and pay using a touch screen. It’s unclear whether the coffee shop will also employ human baristas and servers, or how its owners plan to comply with the city’s requirement that businesses must accept cash. Eater has contacted Botbar for more information.
Automated cafes are part of a growing sector that claims to be responding to hiring shortages, employee retention, and other perceived issues in the restaurant industry. Their critics say that robots are being used to replace minimum-wage workers and that employees would stick around if they were paid fairer wages.
Last year, a small herd of robotic cat servers started showing up at dim sum parlors in neighborhoods like Cobble Hill and Flushing Meadows. “Owners are using the robot to reduce labor costs,” Michael Wang, the chief operating officer at WowRobee, a company marketing the robots, said at the time.
Richtech, which also sells robots that clean floors and deliver food, appears to be cut from the same cloth. In its promotional materials, the company lists “no breaks needed” and “never takes a sick day” as selling points for its robots.