Panera Bread tests automated coffee preparation with Miso Robotics

Panera Bread tests automated coffee preparation with Miso Robotics

Miso Robotics CookRight coffee system

Source: Miso Robotica

Panera Bread is experimenting with Miso Robotics’ new automated coffee making system as it doubles its beverage subscription program.

It’s part of a broader shift in the restaurant business towards automation, as many restaurants struggle to find workers and labor costs rise. For example, McDonald’s is working to automate drive-thru orders, while California Pizza Kitchen has been testing a robot to help bus tables.

The automation trend has made Miso Robotics popular with both restaurant chains and investors. Last month, Chipotle Mexican Grill announced that it is testing a robot made by Miso that makes tortilla chips. The startup’s other fast food partners include White Castle and owner of Arby Inspire Brands.

Since its founding in 2016, Miso has funded more than $ 50 million from restaurant chains like CaliBurger, venture capital firms and ordinary investors, according to the company. It is in the middle of its Series E round, which values ​​the start at $ 500 million.

“We have seen a steadily increasing wave of demand,” Miso Robotics CEO Mike Bell said in an interview. According to Bell, the restaurant industry’s biggest problem is the labor gap, caused by restaurants needing more workers than are available. “And it won’t go away,” he said.

Miso’s latest launch is the CookRight Coffee system, which uses artificial intelligence to monitor the volume and temperature of the coffee. It also provides predictive analytics that can tell the restaurant more about the type of coffee its customers like and when. Bell said Miso charges customers “a few hundred dollars” a month for its CookRight technology, while the startup’s Flippy the Robot brings operators back several thousand dollars in monthly fees.

Panera’s goal for the system is to give employees more time to devote to other activities, such as helping customers, and making sure coffee drinkers enjoy every sip of their drink, especially if they are Unlimited Sip Club members.

“We have never seen it as a cost saving or a defense against the job market,” said George Hanson, Panera’s chief digital officer.

Panera launched the coffee and tea subscription program more than two years ago after reviewing its coffee selection. For $ 8.99 a month, customers can drink an unlimited amount of coffee and tea. The low monthly cost of the program offers Panera an easy way to attract customers and persuade them to change their breakfast habits.

For now, only two Panera locations are testing the CookRight Coffee system. Hanson said the chain will make a decision in the coming weeks on how quickly and how much to scale back its footprint. Panera owns nearly half of its cafes in the United States, while franchisees operate the remaining 1,200 locations.

Bell said Miso expects thousands of its partner restaurants to have CookRight technology installed by the end of the year, as well as hundreds of Flippy the Robots.

As for the rest of the kitchen, Hanson said Panera will continue to look for more opportunities to automate tasks for its employees if it makes sense, but he doesn’t expect its restaurants to be entirely robot-run in the future. However, for Bell, it’s a question of when, not if, restaurants become automated.

“Opportunistically, if we see things like this that will help our associates, we will look into them,” Hanson said. “I see the sector very curious about this, but perhaps in some areas I have seen that curiosity comes from the cost of labor, and this is not our filter.”

The soup and sandwich chain is privately owned by Einstein Bros. ‘ parent company JAB Holding, so it doesn’t reveal how many Unlimited Sip Club subscribers it has. However, Panera announced in November that it would return to the stock exchange through an initial public offering after securing investments from restaurateur Danny Meyer and his special purpose acquisition company.

Other companies have recently delayed their IPOs due to fears of inflation and market volatility. A Panera representative declined to comment if the chain changed its plans.

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