Some San Francisco robot-run restaurants close as others thrive

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- For the past several years we've seen a new trend of robot restaurants emerge in San Francisco but as some are opening others are closing.

But what is driving these businesses to the edge?

In 2017, Café X opened its first robotic coffee bar in San Francisco. Fast forward to 2019, their three San Francisco automated robot barista locations closed.

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"They were running prototype machines that we hacked together ourselves. Throughout the years we've worked on really strong in-house engineering team on the hardware, software and manufacturing," said Café X founder, Henry Hu.

According to the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce, many of the robot restaurant startups are choosing Silicon Valley to experiment.

In July 2019, Eatsa a robot restaurant serving quinoa bowls closed, this year Zume a robot pizza delivery restaurant also closed.

"I think with Zume you have a very similar situation where you are seeing someone experiment with a new business model. Sometimes part of that business work and sometimes they don't," said Jay Cheng, with the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce.

According to Hu, not finding what works on time is crucial.

"It's really hard to get it right just in terms of getting the tech working properly and getting the product that you serve to be high quality and for it to taste good and consistent," said Hu.

Café X says they've pivoted and now their focus is airports.

"This year now we're launched this new version of our machine our focus is growth. We are setting up manufacturing to build 100 of these machines a year," said Hu.
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