The CEO and Founder of Crown Digital Believes His Robot Barista Is Poised To Be At The Forefront of F&B Automation

Named Ella, Keith Tan’s invention proves that humans living alongside robots isn’t a dystopian future but an inevitable reality.
by Zat Astha

Photo: Lawrence Teo, Athirah Annissa

Sum up your job in five words.

How about a coffee first?

Why is your work important to the world today?  

The F&B industry consistently grapples with challenges, including labour shortages and steep overhead expenses such as leasing, labour, and training, which result in low profit margins and rising consumer costs. With the resurgence of AI and robotics, technology has emerged as an indispensable component of our lives, positively impacting aspects of society, the economy, and daily living.

The introduction of Ella represents a strategic response to the evolving demand for automated F&B services in today’s dynamic market landscape. By offering a fully automated and consistently reliable experience, Ella not only enhances customer convenience but also presents a viable solution for businesses facing challenges related to manpower shortages and operational efficiency.

Our innovative approach aligns with the growing trend towards automation in the F&B industry and sets a new standard for convenience, quality, and accessibility.

What do people most misunderstand about what the work you do aims to achieve?

One of the biggest misconceptions is that automation eliminates jobs, leaving people without employment opportunities. However, the reality is quite different. Automation frees us from mundane, repetitive tasks, allowing us to focus on higher-level, creative, and strategic endeavours.

Instead of being bogged down by routine work, we can now channel our energy into tasks that require empathy, critical thinking, and complex problem-solving.

At Ella, we believe that transitioning into a world where humans live alongside robots isn’t a dystopian future but an inevitable reality. As technology advances, our society naturally evolves to integrate these advancements into our daily lives. Rather than fearing this transition, we should embrace it and leverage its benefits.

What would success in the work that you do look like?

Photo: Lawrence Teo, Athirah Annissa

Success will be when a parent orders a cup of coffee from Ella to get ready for the chaos their toddler might bring for the day, a nurse picks up her cup of Ella coffee to start her night shift, and a commuter picks up Ella at Raffles City MRT station upon his arrival, which he’d pre-ordered on the app when he changed lines at City Hall.

Spurring the industry to be less risk-averse and driving innovation and adoption of AI and Robotics in the hospitality industry. We took early steps to make it a reality and would like our work to ripple through and encourage more industry players to take that leap forward.

What three things would make your bigger work goals easier to achieve today?

First, securing introductions to the right people and opportunities that allow me to demonstrate the versatility and efficiency of Ella would be invaluable. Second, establishing collaborations with strategic partners, including businesses, suppliers, and distributors, would help unlock new opportunities, share resources, and expand our market reach.


The idea of transitioning into a world where humans live alongside robots isn’t a dystopian future but an inevitable reality.KEITH TAN, CEO AND FOUNDER OF CROWN DIGITAL, ON WHY HIS ROBOT BARISTA IS AT THE FOREFRONT OF F&B AUTOMATION

Lastly, fostering investment into robotics and hardtech startups focused on creating tangible solutions that impact our world would significantly advance our objectives.

When you look at the state of the world today, what is the one thing that gives you hope?


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Ella (@meetella.official)

The growing acceptance of integrating AI and robotics into our daily lives reflects a shift towards embracing technological advancements to enhance efficiency and productivity.

The idea of Ella arose when I was at a cafe and noticed snaking queues and long wait times as each coffee was made individually. I believe that there has to be a way to serve coffee efficiently without losing its quality while still retaining a personal touch.

Being among the pioneers in bridging this gap between traditional service and innovative technology has been a gratifying experience. Rather than viewing automation as a threat to human employment, Ella represents a harmonious blend of human ingenuity and technological innovation.

By introducing Ella as the first robot barista in Singapore, we are heartened to not only address the challenges of labour shortages and rising costs in the F&B industry but also demonstrate how AI and robotics can augment human capabilities rather than replace them.

This story originally published on The Peak Singapore.

, ,

Type keyword(s) and press Enter