As Starbucks coffee supremacy is currently under siege in China, a new contender to the United States market is reading from the same playbook, hoping to have similar results if not smaller in scale, at least to start. Bandit Coffee, a new start-up from a former Uber employee and not the St. Petersburg, Florida cafe by the same name, is the mobile-ordering only coffee bar sung in the key of Luckin. It is now open in Manhattan now.
As reported by Eater New York, Bandit touts itself as a “mobile-only” coffee shop, which has a bit of a double meaning (both of which have Luckin’s fingerprints all over them). The first of which is how orders are placed: through a smartphone app, and only through a smartphone app. Eater describes this “easy” ordering process:
That means anybody showing up to the new coffee shop with only cash, a credit card, or a phone without an app store won’t be able to buy a latte until they download the Bandit Coffee app on an iPhone or Android phone, create an account, upload a profile photo (required so that the barista can recognize them), and put in a payment method.
It’s as co-founder Max Crowley tells Eater, “we are coffee at a push of a button.” Or like, a lot of pushes of a lot of buttons. But what are a few extra keystrokes, especially to a tech guy, right?
The secondary definition of “mobile-only” for Bandit refers to their location(s). Like Luckin, Bandit is looking to keep costs down by operating small, no-frills cafes; this is grab-and-go coffee, not sit-down-and-have-a-chat-with-a-friend coffee. But instead of opening permanent locations in New York's wildly vacant and overpriced storefront apocalypse, Bandit is keeping their brick-and-mortar options more flexible by opening 11’ x 11’ modular coffee bars—which Crowley says can be assembled in four hours—in vacant properties whose landlords “might want a temporary coffee shop on their properties.” Instead of signing a traditional lease, Bandit offers licensing agreements to the property owners, giving them a percentage of sales.
On top of “convenience”—which again, YMMV depending upon how customer-friendly you feel it is to not be able to order in person and pay with cash—Bandit is hoping to draw folks off the Pequod with cheaper price-points than that of its Big Green Competition. (Because the biggest problem with coffee right now is that it isn’t cheap enough.) Per Eater, the “really good” coffee runs about $2 for a drip, $3 for a cold brew, all the way up to $4.50 for other menu items. The reduced price, per Crowley, is due to the cheap rent and roasting out of Red Hook’s Pulley Collective, implying that renting roasting time and buying miniscule amounts of green coffee relative to Starbucks’ 650 million pounds per year is a more cost-effective strategy. That’s how truth works in 2019.
Thus far, the response to Bandit from NYC coffee folks on Twitter has been… less than ideal.
Absolutely not. https://t.co/GtiFBxMJ0m
— Sam Lewontin (@coffeeandbikes) November 21, 2019
Lol fuck this guy so much. Can’t wait to watch this fail. pic.twitter.com/0hcbXMYQKM
— Erika Vonie (@OkAn_EerieEvil) November 21, 2019
I’ll take all their modular bars once this fails. Reclaim alllllll of this wood. https://t.co/Efrs47nNdP
— Eric J. Grimm (@EricJGrimm) November 21, 2019
I was going to make a joke about how this place should just be called Disruptive Coffee, and then…
I had a meeting with these guys, they used the term “disrupt” about a hundred times.
— Andrew Valentine (@AndrewEveryday) November 21, 2019
Currently, Bandit only operates the Midtown Manhattan location but Crowley tells Eater there are “plans to open at least five or six in the city or New Jersey within the next year.”
For more information on Bandit, download their app to your smartphone, create an account, upload a jaunty picture of yourself, and enter your credit card information, and fully assimilate to the Borg. Or just visit their official website.
Top image via Bandit Coffee