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Quick Bite: With a Disposable Cup Shortage, Maybe mia&noa is on to Something
The Swiss barista 'bot makes you bring your own cup.
Welcome to the first OttOmate Quick Bite — a small, snackable story for you to consume real quick before the weekend begins.
Today’s Quick Bite is about cups. More specifically, disposable cups, which, as The Wall Street Journal reported yesterday, are in short supply. From that article (sub. required):
Restaurateurs and suppliers around the country face the same empty cupboard. Disposable cups imported from China and elsewhere are stuck in ports along the mucked-up supply chain. American paper mills are short workers. And the U.S. hasn’t caught up from the extreme cold snap in Texas last year that suspended production of resins used to make plastic cups and the coating on paper cups.
If that weren’t enough, The WSJ says there’s also a lid shortage.
All of this got me thinking about mia&noa, a swiss startup that makes a robot barista. The hook with mia&noa is that they make you bring your own cup (or thermos, or whatever vessel you prefer). As I wrote back in September:
At first blush, the idea of making people bring their own cup seems like a huge barrier to getting customers. Robot baristas are meant for convenience in high-traffic areas like airports and hospitals. Walk up to the machine, get your cup of coffee, and go. I don’t know about you, but I typically don’t (and don’t want to) bring a mug as a carry-on when I fly.
But there is a method to mia&noa’s “madness.” Instead of setting up at transient high-traffic locations — where people are just passing through to somewhere else — mia&noa is installing machines at locations where the same people return to every day. Think: office buildings, university libraries, and even specific transit hubs like commuter train stations. In these scenarios, it’s totally reasonable to assume people would bring their own mug (or have access to a set of mugs, like in an office).
Mia&noa’s no-cup-for-you! approach also seems smart now in light of the cup shortage. To be sure, I don’t think the current cup crisis will spark a wave of mia&noa installations around the globe. Supply chain issues will be worked out at some point. But it shows how mia&noa’s goal of making the world a better place has helped it withstand a global supply problem.
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