Panera Bread tests automatic coffee making with Miso Robotics

Miso Robotics’s Cookrite Coffee System

Source: Miso Robotics

Panera Bread is piloting Miso Robotics’ new automated coffee brewing system as it doubles its beverage subscription program.

This is part of a broader shift toward automation across the restaurant industry as many restaurants struggle to find workers and labor costs increase. For example, McDonald’s Drive-Through Ordering is working automatically, while a robot is testing a California Pizza Kitchen to help with the bus table.

Automation trends have made Miso Robotics popular with restaurant chains and investors. Last month, Chipotle Mexican Grill announced that it was testing a robot made by Miso that makes tortilla chips. Other start-up partners of the startup include White Castle and Arabic-owned Inspire Brands.

Since its inception in 2016, Miso has garnered more than $ 50 million in crowdfunding from restaurant chains such as Caliberger, Venture Capital Firm and general investors, according to the company. It is in the middle of its Series E round, which the startup is valued at $ 500 million.

“We’ve seen a rising tide of demand,” Mike Bell, CEO of Miso Robotics, said in an interview. According to Bell, the biggest problem in the restaurant industry is the labor gap, which is caused by the need for more workers than is available in restaurants. “And it’s not going away,” he said.

Missou’s latest launch is the Cookrite Coffee System, which uses artificial intelligence to monitor the amount and temperature of coffee. It also provides predictive analysis that can tell the restaurant more about when and what kind of coffee its customers get. Bell says Miso charges customers “hundreds of dollars” a month for its cookwrite technology, while the startup’s Flippy The Robot reimburses operators a few thousand dollars in monthly fees.

Panera’s goal for the system is to give employees more time to engage in other tasks such as helping customers and ensuring that coffee drinkers enjoy every sip of their drink, especially if they are customers of the Unlimited Sip Club.

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

Panera launched its coffee and tea subscription program two years ago after overhauling its coffee selection. For $ 8.99 per month, customers can drink unlimited amounts of coffee and tea The low monthly cost of the program gives Panera an easy way to entice customers and persuade them to change their breakfast habits.

Currently, only two Panera locations are testing the Cookrite coffee system. Hanson said he would decide in the coming weeks how fast and how much the chain would scale across his footprint. Panera owns about half of its US cafes, while franchisees manage the remaining 1,200 locations.

Bell says Miso expects cookrite technology to be installed in thousands of its partner restaurants by the end of the year, as well as hundreds of flipsy robots.

When it comes to the rest of the kitchen, Hanson said Panera would look for more opportunities to automate tasks for his staff if it made sense, but he did not imagine that its restaurants would be run entirely by robots in the future. However, to Bell, it’s not about when the restaurants will automate.

“Opportunistically, if we see something that will help our partners, we will see them,” Hanson said. “I find the industry very curious about this, but maybe in some cases, I’ve seen that curiosity comes from the cost of labor and it’s not our filter.”

The soup and sandwich chain is privately owned by Einstein Bros. The parent company is JAB Holding, so it does not disclose how many Unlimited SIP Club customers there are. However, Panera announced in November that it would be re-released through an initial public offering after securing investment from restaurant owner Danny Meyer and his special-purpose acquiring firm.

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

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