When it opened in September, an AI-powered “bespoke smoothie shop” dubbed BetterBlends marketed itself as “the most personalized restaurant, ever.”
The concept was simple: you, the customer, would input your preferences into an app, and the AI would draft a hyper-personalized recipe that would then be blended by human employees.
“We want to part the noise,” BetterBlends co-founder Michael Parlato told The San Francisco Standard upon the store’s opening, in what can only be described as the most AI hype bro way to discuss frozen beverages imaginable. “This is a real application to solve a challenge.”
But already, as The Guardian reports, strange things are afoot at the startup’s downtown San Francisco shop. Just weeks after its opening, it appears that the store has been all but abandoned — with not a single piece of organic fruit left in its wake.
The timeline is pretty incredible even by tech hype standards. Again, this shop opened in early September. But according to the report, as of Oct 20, the doors were locked, with a note affixed to the door telling customers that the smoothie joint was “temporarily closed” and that staff would be back in an hour. Locals, however, told the Guardian that the shop had already been standing vacant for three weeks.
Fast forward to that following Monday, per the report, and the storefront was completely empty, barring a left-behind trash can.
As the Guardian notes, the venture’s Google Maps profile paints a strange portrait of BetterBlends’ brief time in business.
Though the shop did receive a few decent reviews, the only photo captured of any happy BetterBlends customers, posted to Google in July, strongly appears to be AI-generated; the smoothies they’re holding feature the garbled, nonsensical text that’s become indicative of synthetic imagery, and their fingers are oddly long and smooth.
Residents of the area have also taken to the reviews section in the aftermath of the shop’s abandonment, chalking the owners’ bizarre departure up to a lack of restaurant know-how in what’s a difficult market for any hopeful store owner, as the deeply troubled downtown San Fransisco’s commercial real estate vacancies continue to soar.
“I was hopeful for this business. The owners however did not understand the discipline to run a restaurant,” reads a one-star Google review, posted two weeks ago. “It was often open late and closed early. They changed their hours after a week of being open. And then [one] day they put up a sign, ‘Temporarily closed, be back in an hour.’ They have not been back in over two weeks.”
The BetterBlends website is still functioning, and even still features a call for investors on its landing page, prompting potential funders to reach out if they “would like to contribute to the next generation of dining.”
But of course, as the owners of BetterBlends presumably now know, it probably takes more than a generative AI-powered recipe tool to bring about the future of dining.