A DOUBLE SHOT OF AUTOMATION

A DOUBLE SHOT OF AUTOMATION

Starbucks will still have baristas on duty. But the machines will handle the tamping and pouring of all espresso shots, with the baristas taking over from there. Some units are already in place, and customers say they can't knock the quality. "What we find is that it's able to pull a more consistent shot, and that it is a great cup of coffee," Starbucks spokesperson Lara Wyss told the New York Times.

Some may argue that push-button espresso will somehow undercut the carefully cultivated coffeehouse experience at Starbucks. But one thing's for sure. If mighty Starbucks is going the automated route, the machines must be good enough and reliable enough that they could work in your place, too.

That's what the manufacturers are thinking. At the NRA Show, most of the big-time European espresso machine makers spent their time demonstrating automated versions of their products. What does this mean to you? If you buy a good machine, and then buy really good beans to put into it, you can then go head-to-head with Starbucks for coffee business.

This is a battle that can be fought on many fronts. Two of them are espresso kiosks and mobile carts, either of which can be self-serve or operated by a barista/attendant. Why would you want to do this? The Specialty Coffee Association of America reports that average annual sales for kiosks is $300,000, and it's $140,000 for mobile carts—this on high-mark-up specialty coffee drinks. In all, says SCAA, the market for specialty coffee beverages is $9 billion. If the demos we participated in at NRA are any indication, your chance of capturing a piece of this business for your operation has never been more in reach.