Baskin Robbins launches its first automated store in South Korea

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SEOUL, Dec. 3 (UPI) — SPC Group announced that it will launch the first automated Baskin Robbins store in South Korea.

SPC Group is South Korea’s largest food company, which operates the local branch of Baskin Robbins.

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The automated store, announced Thursday, will offer about 120 kinds of ice creams, desserts and snacks, to be run around the clock without human workers. Delivery services are also available between 10 a.m. and 2 a.m.

Unlike at a traditional Baskin Robbins store, however, customers cannot order different flavors in a cone or in a cup. They can only buy ready-made products.

“Customers can purchase products by scanning their barcodes. If they have any problems, they can call our managers any time. We plan to increase the number of automated stores,” an SPC official told UPI News Korea.

More automated outlets have opened throughout the COVID-19 pandemic of the past two years.

Retailers started launching cashier-less stores even before the pandemic. Amazon Go launched in South Korea in 2018.

Convenience store chain E-mart 24 also started opening automated stores in Seoul and other cities in 2017. The company currently has more than 800 stores, which are fully or partially automated.

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Seo Yong-gu, a professor of business administration at Sookmyung Women’s University, said there will be more cashier-less stores because of a steep hike in the minimum wage.

During the past five years, the country’s minimum wage has jumped 42 percent. In 2022, it is scheduled to rise to 9,160 won ($7.91), up from 8,720 won ($7.53).

“Retail stores mostly hired part-time cashiers, who received the minimum wage. As the minimum wage jumps, the number of automated stores will increase,” Seo said in a telephone interview.

“It has become a new trend to replace part-time cashiers with machines. COVID-19 is accelerating that trend,” he said. “You will see more and more stores without cashiers.”