Chick-fil-A pilots robot delivery as investment in autonomous tech grows – Restaurant Dive

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Dive Brief:

  • Kiwibot, a robotic delivery service founded in 2017, is partnering with Chick-fil-A to help launch its next iteration of delivery robots, according to a press release. The Kiwibot 4.0 is now delivering from up to three Chick-fil-A locations in Santa Monica, California, Restaurant Business reports. Kiwibot COO Diego Varela Prada told the publication the robots could be deployed at additional Chick-fil-A locations this year. 
  • The 4.0 version of the semi-autonomous technology features sensors to detect people, traffic lights and vehicles to create its delivery path. The delivery robots are also supported remotely by human supervisors to cross streets and stop immediately if needed.
  • Food delivered by Kiwibots can be ordered to customers up to a mile away from businesses, university campuses, airports or malls via Shopify web portals. Average deliveries take 30 minutes and cost $1.99.

Dive Insight:

One of the major challenges of foodservice delivery, even as demand for the channel grows exponentially, is the cost. Commission fees can be as high as 30% for third-party deliveries, which is carried by both consumers and restaurants. Several chains have raised their delivery menu prices to lessen the blow of these fees.  

Autonomous delivery can also lower costs, as it requires significantly lower labor investment. Kiwibot’s press release even notes “the robot won’t be expecting a tip.” In a 2019 article on Path to Purchase IQ, Sterling Hawkins, co-founder of the Center for Advancing Retail and Technology, estimated that automated delivery could reduce delivery costs by 80% to 90%.

According to the press release, Kiwibot CEO Felipe Chávez Corté​s “aspires to educate the general population … about integrating robots into communities so that food delivery is available for everyone at low costs.”

Earlier this week, Domino’s announced it started testing autonomous pizza delivery with self-driving company Nuro in Houston. The chain initially partnered with Nuro in 2019.

Late last month, Chipotle announced its Series C investment in Nuro on the heels of significant delivery growth in 2020 that caused the chain to raise its delivery prices. Autonomous delivery has also been tested by DoorDash and Uber Eats and is offered in select markets by Postmates. The growing interest from such large companies could expedite the presence of autonomous delivery, particularly as foodservice delivery proliferation continues.  

Kiwibot notes its relationship with Chick-fil-A will be part of a pilot to improve the robots’ capabilities while the chain evaluates “the impact of robots on customer experience.” That impact could make-or-break Chick-fil-A’s decision for further deployment as the chain is known for its industry-leading customer service. Chick-fil-A, the release states, has experienced a “major increase” in delivery demand throughout the past year and is likely hoping to translate that signature customer service to those growing off-premise channels.