We placed a fully automatic about 3 years ago in a university food court. it cost about $21,000 plus a service contract of $6000 for 3 years. This year, we're recommending fully automatic machines in the $10,000 range. I don't know what the service contracts cost - I've moved back from front line sales & sales management.
The main reason to have a fully automatic is that you anticipate high labor turnover. Dunkin Donuts uses automatics, but then they are in the dough and hot brown beverage business, not the espresso business.
Starbucks, especially some of the licensed operations like those in airports use automatics because of labor issues. As far as I know, they still use semi-automatics in their company owned stores. That is part of what they are selling, even if they think they can get someone up to speed in a day of training.
If you haven't pulled 1,000 shots, don't even dream of calling yourself a barista.
If you want to showcase espresso and that is a big part of your business, then I'd recommend a semi-automatic machine. People come for the show. Each of these businesses has margin items and traffic items. Sometimes coffee is both. Donut places pull people in with the donuts and make their money on the coffee. Starbucks pulls people in with the coffee and they make the money with the coffee.
If you're running a coffee shop and you don't have something else to get people in the door than coffee, I really would recommend doing the coffee right. Have a variety of drinks you can make. Not just the 4 or 6 items that come from automatic machines.
Yep, John, the owner of our gourmet coffee bar, says "semi-automatic" because you have better control over the machine and can personalize the drink better, whereas "Automatic" automatically doses everything.
Lara, theres some confusion to types of machines
Super Automatic -grinds, tamps and pulls shot at the push of a button
Automatic -you have to grind, tamp -machine just pours the right dose of water for your shots
Semi-automatic -you press the button and have to watch the pour of espresso and stop it when you've poured enough.
I recommend Automatic, a good balance between speed and control, and costs a ton less than Super-Automatics (which I still think suck, especially for an espresso bar or coffehouse). PS even McDonalds uses Super-automatics at thier ttrial coffee kiosks in thier restaurants!