Food Delivery, But Make It High Tech

Robots are taking on the task of food delivery. Companies like Domino’s Pizza, Chipotle and Chick-fil-A are utilizing robots to deliver food to customers who are within a specific mile radius.

According to Business Insider, several other big US chains are looking into robotic delivery after the increase in sales during the pandemic through drive-thrus, curbside pickup and app-based delivery services. CNBC reports that Domino’s Pizza shares have risen 13% in the last year with a market value of $15.2 billion. 

Domino’s Pizza announced on Monday the usage of the Nuro’s R2 autonomous delivery vehicles that are designed to drive in neighborhoods as "an e-commerce company that sells pizza.” Nuro was founded by two former members of Google’s self-driving car team and has raised $500 million from its last funding round. According to CNBC, Nuro received the first-ever permit from the California Department of Motor Vehicles to commercially deploy self-driving vehicles in California last year.

The autonomous pizza delivery will take place in Houston, specifically the Woodland Heights neighborhood. According to USA Today, those who are able to try the robot delivery option will receive text alerts of the machine’s movement and can retrieve their food by entering a PIN on the robot’s touchscreen.

Dennis Maloney, the Senior Vice President and Chief Digital Officer at Domino’s Pizza said in a statement, "There is still so much for our brand to learn about the autonomous delivery space. This program will allow us to better understand how customers respond to the deliveries, how they interact with the robot and how it affects store operations.”

Chipotle also invested in the Nuro R2 which marked the first immense funding of a third-party technology company since the company had Brian Niccol take over as CEO in 2018. 

In an interview with Restaurant Business, Chipotle’s chief technology officer Curt Garner, said “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.”

Chick-fil-A is trying a different robot delivery service with the Kiwibot 4.0. The Kiwibot serves as a robotic delivery service that has completed 150,000 food deliveries. 

The newest Kiwibot 4.0 has features to advance robot-human interaction including new cameras, lights, speakers, and the ability to blink. PR Newswire reports the Kiwibot has high-tech sensors which allow it to detect humans, traffic lights, and cars. Additionally, the robot has partnerships with Segway, Knight Foundation, Chick-fil-A, and Shopify. 

When requesting food delivery, the robot can reach customers up to a mile away. Delivery is reported to take around 30 minutes and costs $1.99 without receiving any tip. For Santa Monica Chick-fil-A customers, they will be given the option to use the Kiwibot option at checkout. 

In an interview with Restaurant Business Online, Kiwibot Chief Operating Officer Diego Varela Prada said, "It's too early to say where that's going to end up, but we're hopeful that we are going to be deploying with them a number of locations later this year or into next year."

The new food delivery service option is still fairly new. But its novelty poses the question of whether or not it’s fair for robots to replace food delivery drivers. Would you trust your food delivery with a robot? Do you think robots are ready to drive on the road? Tell us what you think @txadpr.

Maggy Wolanske