The Importance of Brand Experience—Exploring the difference between human baristas and robot baristas

Rita Cronin

Photo by Futurice

With a simple Google search, you can find dozens of local coffee shops around Wilmington, North Carolina. Scooter’s Coffee, a midwestern company, recently franchised out to Wilmington. Scotter’s goal is to provide “quick, convenient drive-thru service” via a small kiosk. Owner, Morgan Deberry states: We loved Wilmington. It’s a very welcoming town. It’s a busy town, and it seems to be a growing town, which is really exciting” (Hamrick, 2022).

In a rapidly growing town, entrepreneurs in the industry—like Deberry—are constantly inventing novel ways to strengthen competitive power. Of the various attempts made by industry professionals to create a more compelling brand experience through fast service or unique recipes, robot baristas are the most remarkable (Hwang et al., 2021).

Benefits of Robot Baristas

Artly, a startup based in Seattle, developed an AI-powered machine that looks like an arm that can make, monitor, and serve customers coffee. Computer vision algorithms guide the robot and claim to make a “perfect cup of coffee” every time (Soper, 2022). The robot can take various orders from customers and can continually create unique, quality drinks. Robot baristas have proved to be very efficient, making multiple cups of coffee at once for customers and shortening the typical coffee shop wait times.

Additionally, the demand for contactless services has recently sharply increased due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Having less human contact and decreasing the sociality of coffee consumption may generate positive emotions between the coffee brand and consumers at present. This technology is only predicted to become more common with its evident benefits.

Photo by Japan Times

Brand satisfaction, attitude, attachment, and loyalty

Brand attitude, brand attachment, and brand loyalty are critical outcome variables of brand satisfaction for coffee shops. Once consumers formulate a positive brand attitude toward a coffee brand, they become passionate about the coffee brand and would like to use that coffee brand in the future. The fight between robot baristas and human baristas comes down to the question—Which coffee shop can provide the most positive overall experience to customers?

According to a study conducted by the International Journal of Hospitality Management in 2021, customers have an overall better brand experience with robot baristas compared to human baristas (Hwang et al., 2021). Customers are receiving high-quality service and great cups of coffee that are keeping them coming back.

Customers experience satisfaction when the coffee shops take into account the sensory, affective, behavioral, and intellectual aspects of their experience, which robot baristas are doing well. Coffee shops with robot baristas are perceived to be more intellectually engaging brands that consumers are interested in and satisfied with.

Despite the popularity of robot baristas, some customers still value the typical coffee shop experience. The ambiance, the people, and the ability to make human connections are impactful and cause positive brand experiences for some customers.

Improving the customer experience at coffee shops

Whether your coffee shop chooses to implement a robotic arm to pour your coffee or sticks to the hard-working humans to stir your cream and sugar together, coffee practitioners should be aware of the various ways the brand experience can be enhanced.

According to the findings, enhancing customers’ sensory brand experiences led to an increase in the level of brand satisfaction (Hwang et al., 2021). Appealing to all five senses of the consumer is important to make a strong impression. I am more inclined to continually return to a coffee shop if the environment is peaceful, the noise is manageable, and it smells like freshly brewed coffee. Shops with humans and robots both have the potential to provide this type of experience.

Coffee brands should create advertising phrases and promotional materials that have an effective appeal to consumers. Emotional advertising is the second most significant contributor that affects brand satisfaction (Sung and Jeon, 2020). Coffee brands that promote their establishments as places to find a sense of belonging and connect may have a greater advantage than those that don’t.

Involving the customer in the creation of their coffee has proved to have great benefits regarding brand satisfaction. For success, it is pivotal to increase the behavioral brand experience. This means making consumers feel active, energetic, and involved in their coffee shop experience. Shops with baristas making espresso right in front of you are seen as more personable than bigger brands that do it confidently behind the counter. Engaging in the coffee-making experience keeps customers engaged and returning.

Photo by Formplus

There is a lot of potential for robot baristas and human baristas to work together to curate the best brand experience. As stated by Soper (2022), human baristas could work on creating recipes, teaching the robot, and providing customer service, while the robot does the job of actually making the cup of coffee. It will be interesting to see how this technology progresses over the next few years and its long-lasting impact on consumers.


Hamrick, M. (2022, December 14). “Scoot in, scoot out”: New coffee shop to specialize in fast, friendly service | WilmingtonBiz. WilmingtonBiz.

Hwang, J., Choe, J. Y., Kim, H. M., & Kim, J. (2021). Human baristas and robot baristas: How does brand experience affect brand satisfaction, brand attitude, brand attachment, and brand loyalty? International Journal of Hospitality Management, 99, 103050.

Soper, T. (2022, September 26). Robotic coffee barista maker led by ex-AWS engineer raises $8.3M to open more retail locations. GeekWire.’s%20not%20Starbucks.,arm%20and%20monitor%20drink%20quality.