DoorDash acquired robotic salad maker Chowbotics in a new push to give merchant partners additional options to deliver.
The top delivery platform that went public in December announced the Chowbotics acquisition in a blog post. It noted that the “proven” model with more than 100 “Sally” machines on campuses, hospitals and grocery stores is truly incremental for merchants that want to put one of the machines in their facility.
“What excites us most about Chowbotics is the team has developed a remarkable tool that will allow DoorDash merchants to grow. As part of the DoorDash platform, this tool can help merchants expand their current menu offerings as well as reach new customers in new markets without investing in an entirely new store,” read the post.
A DoorDash representative told Food On Demand this technology could be added into the back of a restaurant or at a satellite facility where a full brick-and-mortar location might not work economically.
At a 2018 industry conference, former Chowbotics Vice President of Marketing Slaton Smith said there is the ability to have predefined recipes on the machines, but most people choose to customize their own salad. That, he said, allows merchants, be they restaurants, convenience stores or potentially a fully autonomous dark kitchen one day, to expand the menu without additional work.
“When Sally is full, she can make 60 large entrée salads,” said Smith in 2018. “If you think about a restaurant that makes burritos, you’re doing 89 percent burritos and its 11 percent salads. If you have a robot like Sally there, you can get that salad quickly while the rest of the workers can focus on the other 89 percent of the business.”
Like virtual food halls or internal virtual brands, Sally can also help merchants avoid the dreaded veto vote where one person wants wings or a burger and another wants something a little lighter. It’s an age-old dilemma in the restaurant space that is amplified in the digital-delivery world. It’s even easier to scroll by or filter out a restaurant without a healthy option.
Chowbotics was previously valued at $46 million back in 2018, but it’s grown significantly from the 25 to 30 stores it had back then. In all, the company has done three funding rounds, raising a total of $20.8 million. The latest raise was in August of 2019 when it raised $3.5 million.
DoorDash said it isn’t ready to talk specifics about investment or a timeline for the rollout. The company said its focus is currently on welcoming the team and integrating the companies under the same roof.
Prior estimates peg the robot at about a $30,000 investment plus servicing and whatever labor necessary to clean and fill the machine. How that changes under DoorDash is unclear, but plugging service and fulfillment into the DoorDash logistics fleet is an intriguing potentiality.