Shown above is an unmanned store of Baskin Robbins, named flow, located in Seongnam, south of Seoul. Photo courtesy of SPC Group

SPC comes up with the world’s first attempt

SPC Group recently announced that Baskin Robbins had launched its first unmanned outlet in the world, dubbed flow, in Seongnam, just south of Seoul.

SPC Group is South Korea’s foremost food company, which operates the premium ice cream brand Baskin Robbins here.

The new store with around 120 kinds of ice creams, desserts, and snacks will be run around the clock without workers. Delivery services are also available between 10 a.m. and 2 a.m.

Unlike traditional Baskin Robbins, however, customers cannot order different flavors in a cone or in a cup at the same time. They can buy only 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 unmanned stores,” an SPC official said.

More and more unmanned outlets mushroomed after the virus pandemic over the past two years throughout the country.

In fact, retailers have debuted cashier-less stores even before the COVID-19 outbreak, as demonstrated by Amazon Go, which came to town in 2018.

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

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

During the past five years, the country’s minimum wage jumped 42 percent.

“Retail stores mostly hired part-time cashiers, who received the minimum wage. As the minimum wage jumps, the number of unmanned stores increases,” Seo said.

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

He added that the novel coronavirus also affects the trend.

The publisher studied Korean history in Seoul and management of business administration in the United Kingdom. He has 20-year experiences in the media business. Kim can be reached at or 82-2-6956-6698.