Rent movies, count your change, and get your coffee without talking to anyone. The autobox folks from CoinStar (currently renting Redbox movies at a Freddies near you) have teamed up with Starbucks to introduce a “21st century” (that means “touch screen”) automated latte machine. Just grab your desired cup from the cup dispenser (this new method allows the user to pre-sugar the cup, or something), plop the cup under the dispenser, poop up the coffee from the touch-o-matic, and presto! Top it off with an assorted selection of sweeteners and pumpable flavorings, finish with a lid, and voila!
The machine even comes equipped with a “virtual barista” to assist you. Chief of Coinstair Paul Davis explains: “We wanted to create a truly genuine customer experience with our autobots, so we’ve included our propriety G.A.B.R.I.E.L. (Gammatron Autobot Barista Routine Instantaneous Experience Liason) artificial intelligentsia unit with each machine. GABRIEL will scoff when you order flavored drinks, demean you for using incorrect lingo, and even roll his eyes upon sensing a packet of Splenda. If you use more than two ounces of half & half, GABRIEL will shout, ‘You should’ve ordered a latte if you wanted that much milk.’ It’s really a lot of fun.”
The coffee kiosks are the first of what Coinstar expects to be a wave of new vending machines from the company. It is testing the machines in locations around the country and expects to have about 500 installed by the end of the year.
Mr. Davis envisions the 3-foot-by-3-foot kiosks going into supermarkets, gas stations and office buildings, though he does not see a need for them in retail locations that already have a small Starbucks or some other coffee chain. Coinstar joined with Starbucks on the kiosks, which are labeled with the company’s Seattle’s Best Coffee brand.
Michael Pachter, an analyst at Wedbush Securities, said he believed the coffee kiosks represented a meaningful growth market for Coinstar. “The retailer relationship is their biggest competitive advantage,” Mr. Pachter said. “If every place has a coin box, they know how to get another 12 square feet.”