World’s First Robotics Cafe And Lounge Serves Close To 60 Drinks

The food and beverage (F&B) industry is a tough line to contend with – from intense competition to rising labor and rental costs and now, to a global pandemic.

According to Enterprise Singapore, only 60 percent of small restaurant businesses survive within their first five years of operation, and one-third of restaurant outlets are replaced each year.

To address the challenges of shrinking margins, labor shortages and other common issues faced by F&B owners, Singaporean company ROSS Digital Pte Ltd, conceptualized and launched RATIO, the first coffee – robotic show in the world.

Café by day and lounge by night, RATIO has robots that work hand in hand with its F&B staff – ratiologists ”- to provide“ great drinks and exceptional service to consumers ”

Having launched several outlets in China since 2018, it opened its first branch in Singapore at Centrepoint, working with JustCo, the leading provider of premium flexible workspaces in Asia-Pacific.

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ratio singapore the world's first robotic café-salon
Image Credit: RATIO

RATIO serves nearly 60 drinks, authentic Nanyang kopi to artisanal coffees and inventive cocktails. But how exactly does it work?

Assuming you want to order a Kopi-C Gao (thick coffee with milk), you can use an ordering kiosk to determine the strength of your coffee. The personalized order will be sent to the robot via the Cloud.

While one of the robotic arms will prepare your custom order by dispensing the correct amount of Kopi base milk and water, another will be used simultaneously to Tarik (pulls) the coffee between two cans to bring out the Nanyang Kopi flavor.

ratio singapore the world's first robotic café-salon
Image Credit: RATIO

For cocktails, the robot takes a glass and freezes it using compressed carbon dioxide. The shaker robot will then collect the ice and ingredients, shake or stir them, and pour the mixture into a glass.

A “ratiologist” will then add a garnish to the cocktail, before serving it.

Founder and CEO of RATIO, Gavin Pathross told Vulcan Post that there is a whole suite of proprietary software built into robots – from order and inventory management systems to CRM and POS.

On the hardware side, RATIO engineers had to build some of their own kitchen equipment by “hacking and adding new IoT technology.”

For example, Gavin said there is no ice maker capable of dispensing the exact amount of ice required for cocktails via an IoT protocol.

Therefore, engineers had to create a new kind of weight and distribution mechanism that could communicate with the cloud and take into account user and operator feedback.

ratio singapore the world's first robotic café-salon
Image Credit: RATIO

Such a precise mechanism is needed because in the world of cocktail making, “every addition of 10 grams of ice will very significantly change the chemistry and taste of the drink.”

According to Gavin, the first working prototype was built in three months and the next nine months were spent building a business unit that was deployed to K11 Shanghai in 2018.

Robots won’t replace humans

ratio singapore the world's first robotic café-salon
Image Credit: RATIO

Sharing on how the idea for RATIO came about, Gavin said it started when he was working on the “Store of the Future” project for Pizza Hut and KFC five years ago.

The then head digital office at Yum! Brands China has faced the challenges of rising rents and labor shortages, and has identified digitization and automation as a long-term solution.

Gavin was working on many solutions ranging from tabletop to order scanning, mobile pre-ordering, robotic food delivery, kitchen analysis, to partial kitchen automation.

He was convinced that this was going to be the future of the F&B industry and therefore left his role at Yum! Brands launched RATIO 3.5 years ago.

Despite the heavy use of robots at RATIO, Gavin is convinced that they will not be able to replace “human touch”.

All RATIO stores in China and Singapore are managed by people and the purpose of the robots is to relieve the staff of repetitive tasks.

Robots and AI are not here to replace human contact. There is here to carry out human orders, allowing our team of ratiologists, formed by the best taochews, baristas and mixologists in Asia, to create that personal touch, so humans can do what humans do best – communicate and have good conversations.

Gavin Pathross, Founder and CEO of RATIO, in an interview with Vulcan Post

In fact, Gavin said that RATIO experienced a significantly lower “ratiologist” attrition rate due to increased job satisfaction.

Customers also appreciate being able to interact better with “ratiologists” as their usual distractions are eliminated, resulting in a higher repeat customer rate.

Automation is the future of F&B

ratio singapore the world's first robotic café-salon
Image Credit: RATIO

Despite the Covid-19 pandemic and the economic peril facing the world, Gavin was ready to launch RATIO in accordance with his business plans.

Our homecoming has always been going on with or without Covid-19, especially because we see our technology as a solution to the real issues facing F&B operators in Singapore.

– Gavin Pathross, Founder and CEO of RATIO

He shared that due to the pandemic, traditional spaces such as hotel lobbies, restaurants and cafes are being converted into flexible workspaces – providing another opportunity for RATIO.

In addition, Covid-19 has accelerated the trend towards automated work, and RATIO has seen an increase in demand from catering and catering operators seeking help to create a solution.

Indeed, the idea is poised to disrupt the restaurant industry, with the support of investors. RATIO received a series of investments led by a consortium of like-minded partners including Frasers Property, JustCo, zVentures, ORO and other high profile individuals.

The brand also plans to grow rapidly.

RATIO’s second site will be inaugurated in November at Seletar Aerospace Park, in partnership with the Singapore Club.

Gavin told Vulcan Post that the marriage of the concepts of the two establishments would be a glimpse of the famous robotic bartender scene in the futuristic sci-fi film The Passenger.

In addition, more than a dozen points of sale are in preparation at major airports, shopping malls, hotels and coworking spaces across Asia.

A project that is close to our hearts is to fly the Nanyang kopi flag high internationally, in conjunction with our overseas expansion plans.

There is no reason why our lovely cup of butter roasted tea couldn’t be that morning hit in London, Berlin, San Francisco or Dubai.

– Gavin Pathross, Founder and CEO of RATIO

Featured Image Credit: RATIO

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