When it comes to eating and drinking out, it’s going to be a long time until consumer confidence returns but innovative concepts such as Gacha Gacha Coffee in Tokyo show how automated, anti-social, staff-free environments could be an answer. Samuel Ballard reports

As the world begins to emerge from lockdown, the question on everyone’s minds is, just how will we return to normal? Whether it’s taking public transport while trying to maintain social distancing or going to the theatre, there are few aspects of life that the coronavirus pandemic will leave unchanged.

Another thing that many people will think twice about is queuing up in a coffee shop for their morning fix of caffeine. That is, unless your commute takes you past Gacha Gacha Coffee.Located in the Roppongi Hills development in Tokyo, with views across the city, the barista-free coffee shop could be an exemplar of post-lockdown cafe culture.Gacha Gacha Coffee, JapanDesigned by Nendo for Maruyama Coffee, Gacha Gacha Coffee used gacha machines, which are usually used to dispense toys, to instead dispense coffee bean capsules. (The pop-up has now closed unfortunately but it’s an inspiring concept nevertheless.)Gacha Gacha Coffee, JapanThe idea is that customers can choose from different varieties of bean, mix their favourites or even choose “secret” beans. They can then put their beans into a grinder, which dispenses the ground beans into a dripper. Then it is poured into a disposable cup. Simple.Gacha Gacha Coffee, JapanThe company hoped that asking people to make their own coffee will eradicate the frustration felt while waiting in line, but now there is the added benefit that it will reassure them that staff aren’t going to accidentally infect them by coughing on their cup.Gacha Gacha Coffee, JapanIn a pre-pandemic statement, Nendo, the design firm behind Gacha Gacha, said: “In Japan, the rise of speciality coffee chains and third-wave coffee shops as well as the spread of convenience store coffee is diversifying the coffee choices and how they are enjoyed more than ever before, making coffee an indispensable part of our lives.Gacha Gacha Coffee, Japan“In the midst of this trend, many coffee shop chains and cafes are facing serious labour shortage caused by a declining birth rate. On top of the current condition of not being able to secure manpower, employees are expected to have a deep understanding of coffee and possess customer service skills, in addition to having to conduct basic operations such as operating the cash register, cooking, serving and cleaning.Gacha Gacha Coffee, Japan“Despite all of this, in many cases, the training time and the cost invested in personnel is not sufficient, resulting in the decline of service quality, and eventually leading to customer dissatisfaction.Gacha Gacha Coffee, Japan“Although it was possible to create an unmanned store that takes full use of technology in order to solve this problem, the café was designed as a self-service type that embodies analogue elements.”Gacha Gacha Coffee, JapanIf we’re about to enter a world where contactless customer service is prized more and more, could you be your own barista soon too?

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