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Human vs robot baristas during the COVID-19 pandemic: effects of masks and vaccines on perceived safety and visit intention

Miju Choi (School of Events, Tourism and Hospitality Management, Leeds Beckett University, Leeds, UK)
Youngjoon Choi (Department of International Office Administration, College of Science and Industry Convergence, Ewha Womans University, Seoul, Republic of Korea)
Seongseop (Sam) Kim (School of Hotel and Tourism Management, The Hong Kong Polytechnic University, Hong Kong, China)
Frank Badu-Baiden (Lee Shau Kee School of Business and Administration, Hong Kong Metropolitan University, Kowloon, Hong Kong)

International Journal of Contemporary Hospitality Management

ISSN: 0959-6119

Article publication date: 1 September 2022

Issue publication date: 27 January 2023




This study aims to compare the effect of barista type (human vs robot) on perceived safety and examine the role of two moderators (mask-wearing and coronavirus vaccination) on the effects of barista type on perceived safety and visit intention.


The research design consists of three studies. Three experiments were sequentially designed and conducted to address research questions.


Study 1 found that perceived safety mediates the effect of barista type on customers’ visit intention. Study 2 revealed that the mask-wearing of human and robot baristas differently influences perceived safety. Study 3 showed that customers, especially where robot baristas are used, perceive the effect of mask-wearing differently depending on their coronavirus vaccination status.

Research limitations/implications

Given that the levels of restrictions vary worldwide, together with the extent of countries’ vaccination rollouts, caution is required when generalising the research findings.

Practical implications

The findings have practical implications for the hospitality industry, where the roles of face masks and coronavirus vaccines in shaping consumer psychology and behaviour have been underexplored.


Coronavirus vaccination is considered one of the most important driving forces for the recovery of hospitality businesses. As a heuristic-systematic model postulated, this study identified that vaccination status (fully vaccinated vs not vaccinated) changes the level of involvement when customers assess the level of risk in service environments. By pinpointing the function of service robots in safeguarding customers from the potential spread of the disease, this study broadens the scope of human–robot interaction research in hospitality.



Choi, M., Choi, Y., Kim, S.(S). and Badu-Baiden, F. (2023), "Human vs robot baristas during the COVID-19 pandemic: effects of masks and vaccines on perceived safety and visit intention", International Journal of Contemporary Hospitality Management, Vol. 35 No. 2, pp. 469-491.



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