Robots could soon help brew your coffee at Panera Bread

Victoria Rosenthal
nj.com (TNS)

A robot could soon help brew your coffee at Panera Bread.

The fast-food chain is teaming up with tech startup Miso Robotics to test a new automated coffee brewing system at two restaurants in Nashville, Tennessee.

Panera is the first company to pilot the CookRight Coffee system, which monitors the volume, temperature and time data of coffee. The system combines this data with predictive analytics to assist restaurant staff as they brew batches.

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The goal is to help staff monitor and brew fresh coffee at the right time for customers. The restaurant’s plan is to help employees invest more time in other daily tasks, like helping customers — not to cut labor costs.

“We never saw this as cost savings or a defense against the labor market at all,” Panera’s SVP and chief digital officer George Hanson told CNBC. “I do see the industry very curious about (automation), but maybe in some areas, I’ve seen that curiosity come from the cost of labor, and that’s just not our filter.”

There are 80 Panera Bread restaurants in New Jersey.

Neither Panera, nor Miso Robotics has said whether the test will expand into other cities this year.

“Panera will use learnings from its customers and employees to decide on its deployment strategy,” a spokesperson for Miso Robotics said.

The chain isn’t the first fast-food restaurant turning to automation — and Miso Robotics — for food service.

Chipotle Mexican Grill began testing a robot named Chippy to cook tortilla chips in March, and White Castle installed Miso’s Flippy 2 robot in 100 of its restaurants in February to fry burgers.

Miso Robotics CEO Mike Bell told CNBC the company has “seen an ever-increasing tidal wave of demand” as the restaurant industry strives to tackle the current labor gap.