What Panera's Robotic Coffee System Could Mean For Workers

The world is still waiting patiently for the flying cars and hoverboards promised to us by 20th Century movies. We'll just have to settle for a robot takeover in the meantime. Thankfully, today's artificial intelligence is less Terminator and more automated services. CNBC explains why we should expect to see more robotic services available at restaurants like Panera, which is testing out a robotic coffee brewing system.

The pandemic and the supply chain and labor shortages that come with it have left the restaurant industry in a mess that Business Insider says will not end anytime soon. Eateries of all sorts are still struggling to hire workers, and seven out of 10 establishments report ongoing labor shortages keeping them from making a recovery as diners return to restaurants. Enter Miso Robotics, a tech start-up making robotic systems to fill labor gaps in restaurants like Chipotle, McDonald's, and now Panera.

Two Panera locations are the first to test out Miso's CookRight Coffee system, which monitors coffee temperature, freshness, and volume while providing valuable analysis of customer usage and preferences to the company. If this pilot program goes well, Panera plans to analyze other areas that might benefit from a robotic system but doesn't see locations run by artificial intelligence in the future. Still, should employees be concerned?

Panera is utilizing artificial intelligence to assist employees

CNBC notes that despite Miso's impressive capabilities and analytics automated coffee system, Panera has no plans to replace its employees with robots. Instead, the company sees the futuristic technology as a means to assist employees so that they can devote their time to other tasks.

Two years ago, Panera revamped its coffee selection and implemented a subscription program for unlimited tea and coffee. In addition, the company plans to utilize the robotic coffee system to make a safer and more streamlined experience to meet the increased customer demand. According to TechCrunch, employees still have to change out filters, coffee, and tea but can leave dispensing and other controls up to the robotic system. This frees up time for employees to focus more on serving food and providing a high-quality customer service experience.

Panera's Chief Digital Officer George Hanson said that the company's interest in robotic systems is geared toward helping its associates and not a defensive move against them. As Miso robotics experiences high demand for its artificial intelligence restaurant systems, food service workers will continue to watch this movement.