In light of our current touchless environment and delivery-driven consumer, it’s no surprise that some of the top restaurant brands are venturing into robotic and driverless delivery.
Recently, at least three brands announced that they’ll be testing robotic delivery very soon.
Chick-fil-A recently joined forces with Kiwibot, a technology delivery service that started in 2017, to test these types of deliveries in Santa Monica, CA. Their robotic platform is “reliable, friendly, and efficient.” What more could you ask for in a delivery service?
The announcement coincides with Kiwibot’s 4.0, the next generation of delivery robots. According to the recent press release, the newest models are “equipped with high-tech sensors to detect people, traffic lights, vehicles, and make decisions in path planning and obstacle avoidance.” These darling robots, that also wink, can travel up to a mile on their little wheels. The cost for each delivery is $1.99 and the estimated delivery time is 30 minutes.
In addition to Chick-fil-A, Kiwibot has partnered with Segway, Shopify, and the Knight Foundation.
Always on the cusp of digital and technical transformation, Domino’s Pizza has partnered with California-based Nuro to test driverless pizza deliveries in Houston’s Woodland Heights neighborhood.
Nuro R2, the latest low-speed, self-driving delivery vehicle, experienced a makeover, made possible by the $940 million the company raised in February 2019. Nuro R2 is 108” long, 73” high, can carry almost 420 pounds, and travels at a top speed of 25 mph. Its temperature-controlled interior also helps keep food fresh and safe.
Nuro R2 is the first of its kind to be granted a self-driving, autonomous vehicle exemption from the US Department of Transportation. This zero-occupant vehicle replaced mirrors with cameras and removed the windshield to mount an absorbent panel that protects pedestrians. Nuro was founded in 2016.
The tests in Houston will help both companies determine how people respond to a driverless delivery vehicle and their comfort level when interacting with the robot. Once the delivery arrives in front of their home or business, customers simply enter a PIN on the vehicle’s touchscreen to retrieve their food.
Chipotle Mexican Grill
Another Nuro fan, Chipotle went so far as to invest in the technology company. In March 2021, the Mexican grill announced its investment as part of its Series C funding round.
Chipotle made headlines when they embraced the digital wave with Chipotlanes, their digital-oriented drive-thru lanes. At the start of 2019, Chipotle had 10 U.S. Chipotlanes. By the end of 2020, they had increased that number to 170. The brand also invested in the Chipotle Digital Kitchen that allows guests to order in advance and pick up their order in the lobby that is void of a front service line or dining room. Their first and only one opened in Highland Falls, N.Y. in November 2020.
That same year, the brand saw its digital sales increase by 174% year over year and account for 46% of its total sales. Curt Garner, Chipotle’s Chief Technology Officer, had this to share in a press release, “Nuro could change the traditional delivery model and we believe consumers are going to continue to seek options and additional access points for how and where they enjoy their food.”
Chipotle has yet to announce when they will begin testing the autonomous vehicles.
Hospitality isn’t the only industry investing in robot delivery. Colleges have been at the forefront of this technological innovation.
Colleges Investing in Robotic Delivery
Colleges across the nation are providing their students with in-demand midnight snacks through contactless, semiautonomous robotic coolers on wheels.
Starship Technologies, a Bay Area tech company founded in 2014, began their Igloo-size robotic campus invasion in 2019. George Mason University, in Fairfax, VA., was the first to use the robotic delivery service in the form of a fleet of 25 robots traveling 4 mph and delivering pizza and other freshly cooked food in just 15 minutes. The delivery fee is just $1.99.
Then the pandemic hit, and college campuses across the nation closed. When they reopened, the need for no-contact delivery was even greater than before. At least 16 colleges have introduced robotic delivery systems to their campuses.
On January 27, 2021, Starship announced its one-millionth autonomous delivery milestone. The one-millionth delivery occurred at BGSU in Bowling Green, Ohio.
Those worried that their food might be stolen before it makes it to their college dorm, have no fear. In addition to GPS, the robots come equipped with alarms and cameras.