from handmade tea to “machine-made tea”, is the era of tea drinking automation coming?
Since 2022, the news of salary cuts, layoffs, losses, store closures and other news on the tea track has been endless. All kinds of tea brands, like ants on the hot-pot/" 22375 rel="nofollow" target="_self">hot pot, have begun to find new ways out.
In April, it was reported that Naixue’s tea was expected to invest 500million to 1billion yuan to increase the bottled tea business. At the same time, xuewang was suspected to be laying out bottled water; In June, chayan Yuese announced that Nanjing would be the first stop in Jiangsu and Zhejiang, and the store was expected to open in mid August. Then the news hit the microblogging hot search list.
Two days ago, Naixue’s tea made another new move, announcing the use of “automatic milk tea machine” in many stores, and will be put into use in all stores in the third quarter of 2022. This set of “automatic milk tea machine” equipment is self-developed by Naixue’s tea digitization team. At present, it has been tested in more than 100 stores. It is reported that not only the automatic milk tea machine, but also Naixue’s tea continues to develop “automatic milk capping machine”, “automatic tea homogenizer” and other series of equipment, and has also entered the scale test link.
From handmade tea to “machine-made tea”, is the era of tea drinking automation coming?
Automation may become the “key” to profitability
From the end of last year to the beginning of this year, the news of store closures, closures, layoffs, salary cuts and other news revealed the other side of the soft legged and lively tea industry. For example, since no new funds have been introduced after August 2020, chayan Yuese can only pay employees the minimum wage and has closed stores on a large scale for several times. According to the founder Lu Liang, the company lost more than 20 million yuan a month.
To say the loss, the more serious one is the listed Naixue tea. From 2018 to 2020, Naixue’s tea revenue was 1.087 billion yuan, 2.502 billion yuan and 3.057 billion yuan, and the net losses in the same period were 70million yuan, 400million yuan and 203million yuan respectively. According to the financial report of 2021, the adjusted net loss of the company (not measured by international financial reporting standards) in 2021 was about 135million yuan -165million yuan.
Profit has become an industrial problem in the tea market. Therefore, before the loss is difficult to solve or narrow, tea brands have slowed down the pace of store expansion and chose to reduce costs and increase efficiency.
Automation is undoubtedly a two pronged approach to cost reduction and efficiency increase. On the one hand, the most direct effect of automatic milk tea machine is to improve production capacity and efficiency and effectively reduce the waiting time in the order queue. On the other hand, once automation is mature, it can directly replace some employees and further reduce employment costs.
The employment cost has always been the “big head” of tea stores. The mature store model of tea enterprises calculated by Xinye securities shows that in the cost composition of tea, the cost of raw materials accounts for the highest, up to 35%, followed by the proportion of employee compensation and rent, which are 25.6% and 12% respectively.
With the expansion of tea brands in the past two years, the pressure on the company caused by staff costs is increasing. Take Naixue’s tea as an example. From 2019 to 2021, the operating revenue of Naixue’s tea was 2.502 billion yuan, 3.05 billion yuan and 4.29 billion yuan respectively, while the staff cost was 750million yuan, 920 million yuan and 1.42 billion yuan, showing an obvious upward trend. Moreover, the ratio of staff costs to total revenue is also rising, from 30.1% in 2020 to 33.2% in 2021.
Employees are the second largest cost source of tea stores after raw materials, and the number of employees in tea making is the largest. It is understood that a store of Xicha needs to be equipped with five employees only in the production process, while after Naixue’s tea is equipped with an automatic milk tea machine, only two tea makers are used in the peak hours of a single store.
If a store reduces 3 employees, according to the total number of 854, Naixue’s tea can reduce the corresponding cost of 2562 employees. Referring to the data in the first half of 2021, Naixue has 8881 store employees, which means that it can reduce the number of employees by nearly 30%. Of course, it does not mean that with automation equipment, these tea making employees will be replaced and dismissed. But when the employment cost is reduced, the financial pressure is relieved, and the possibility of accelerating the expansion of stores will greatly increase. At this time, experienced employees are required to enter new stores.
With the decline of employment costs, the cost structure of single stores has been optimized, which is also directly related to the profitability of tea brands. Especially when the rent has been difficult to lower, it may be the only feasible way to start from the personnel cost.
From manual to mechanism, is tea “degraded”?
Naixue’s tea is not the first tea brand to try to replace manpower with machines. In 2019, happy lemon once cooperated with Alibaba’s word-of-mouth smart restaurant to test the production of water machines. After closing its offline stores in Beijing in mid March this year, thank you tea announced to launch its offline market in the mode of smart milk tea station. Now it has entered many core business districts and online popular restaurants in Shanghai.
Liaolanxin, the founder of thank you tea, said that the form of milk tea machine is mainly to solve the two pain points of rent and labor. “The rent of our point is three or five thousand yuan, and one person is enough, and the cost is reduced by at least ten times.”.
The transformation of thank you tea from online black milk tea to intelligent milk tea station is based on a market judgment. Liao Lanxin believes that consumers’ daily demand for milk tea will eventually return to normal, which is the basic milk tea. But tea is different. The reason why all kinds of tea brands are loved by consumers largely depends on the endless innovation of new products, and the production of new products is becoming more and more complex. This trend is diametrically opposite to milk tea.
Problems also follow. Naixue’s tea, Xicha and other head tea brands have established the brand tone of high-end new tea in the expansion with a high-profile attitude since its inception, and this brand tone is usually based on the characteristics of products such as ready-made, ready-made and pure handmade. If most of these steps are made by machines, we must first persuade consumers to continue to pay for their higher pricing.
According to a report of AI media consulting, judging from the factors that Chinese consumers were dissatisfied with the new tea in 2021, the main dissatisfaction of consumers was that the price was too high and the queue was too long, accounting for 48% and 42.3% respectively, followed by too little taste and product homogeneity, accounting for 37.5% and 36.6% respectively. In terms of customer unit price, more than 60% of consumers’ acceptable customer unit price is between 11-20 yuan, of which 40% of consumers’ acceptable customer unit price is between 16-20 yuan.
Although the prices of Xicha, Lele tea and Naixue tea have been adjusted successively this year, consumers who bought these “affordable series” should know that the so-called price reduction is “price reduction”.
With consumers becoming more and more sensitive to the price of tea, if artificial tea becomes machine-made tea and the price has not fallen, many people may not pay for it. Some netizens said on the social platform, “everything is automated, so there is no need to go to Naixue’s tea”, “buying such an expensive cup of milk tea, spending dozens of yuan is not just an attempt to make it by hand, and the drink made purely by full automation seems to have no taste.”.
Whether automatic operation will affect the taste of tea is the most worrying problem for tea brands. Up to now, the production of new tea has become more and more exquisite, and even the differences in the sweetness and moisture of fruit raw materials in different seasons should be considered, which involves the proportion of syrup and other raw materials. Moreover, the diverse needs of consumers have added many difficulties to the automation process and production process.
However, it is worth mentioning that when high-end tea drinks such as Xicha and Naixue tea enter the sinking market one after another to seek increment, automation equipment improves efficiency and saves costs, which can create room for them to reduce prices, thus competing with brands in the middle of the sinking market.
Is catering automation a blessing or a curse?
Reducing cost and increasing efficiency has become the primary task of all companies and even industry giants, and intelligence, automation and standardization are just the direct ways to achieve cost reduction and efficiency. In particular, catering, which is affected by the epidemic, itself belongs to a labor-intensive industry. In the case of the sharp increase in survival pressure, the cost of employment has pressed many catering enterprises out of breath, which also seems to determine that automation is likely to become a trend in the catering industry.
In fact, a long time ago, catering brands or stores have tried the automation of catering for many times, using robots in many links, such as washing and frying vegetables, delivering and ordering meals. For example, in 2013, robot restaurants appeared on a large scale in Shandong, Jiangxi, Inner Mongolia, Hunan, Jiangsu, Anhui and other parts of the country, and the catering robot industry ushered in its first boom.
However, in less than twoorthree years, the news of the collapse of robot restaurants everywhere continued to spread, and automation and intelligence were recognized as the “gimmick” of catering marketing.
Catering service robots have not disappeared, but the categories are increasing. Cooking robots, cooking robots, greeting robots and so on gradually join the ranks of catering service robots. This also includes the beverage field. Botrista, a beverage robot manufacturer founded by Sean Hsu, a former Tesla engineer, has created a drinkbot, which is a combination of robot and coffee machine. It can automatically complete tasks such as metering and mixing in 20 seconds, and produce a variety of beverages such as iced tea, coffee and lemon juice.
Looking at the robots in the current catering industry, we can find that although the types are more and more diverse and the applicable scenarios are more and more diverse, one core problem has not been improved, that is, the lack of intelligence.
Taking Haidilao as an example, according to public information, more than 70 stores of Haidilao have applied intelligent pot dispensers, vegetable delivery robots have been deployed in more than 1000 stores, and intelligent exhaust devices have been deployed in more than 600 stores. A catering person said that if the full score is 100, now the intelligence level of Haidilao can only be 30-40 points.
Naixue’s tea self-developed “automatic milk tea machine” can identify orders and accurately allocate tea soup, fruit juice and other raw materials. What employees need to do is to print orders and prepare corresponding cups before tea making, as well as the final work such as tea shaking and packaging. According to the test, the single person hourly production capacity of stores using automatic milk tea machines can be increased by at least 40%. However, according to the needs of different customers, whether the program can take into account one by one still needs time to test.
Moreover, unlike most other catering enterprises, most catering brands implement automation by purchasing products from robot manufacturers rather than self-development. Naixue’s tea chooses self-development. The investment of self-development funds will inevitably prolong the return cycle of automatic milk tea machines and bear greater risks.
Like Hailao, it is understood that Haidilao generally buys a vegetable robot at a price ranging from more than 10000 to 30000 yuan. In the catering industry, vegetable delivery is mostly a piece wage. If you calculate at 0.5 yuan per dish, 100 dishes a day, the cost of a year is 15000 to 16000 yuan. If you use a vegetable robot, you can recover the cost in 1-2 years. But Naixue’s tea obviously needs more than 1-2 years.
Naixue’s tea may also be a last resort. At present, there seems to be a lack of automation equipment developed for the tea industry. Therefore, in the face of cost reduction and efficiency increase, Naixue’s tea can only be hardened.
For all tea brands, as long as they can save money, they may try it in the next few years.
Source: daotmt, reprint authorized. Reprint authorization and media business cooperation: Amy (wechat: 13701559246);
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