Technology

Chick-fil-A is testing robot delivery

The chicken sandwich chain is using semi-autonomous Kiwibot fleets to cart orders at a few restaurants in Southern California.
Photograph: Shutterstock

Chick-fil-A is testing robot delivery in California under a new partnership with robotics company Kiwibot.

Up to three locations in the Santa Monica area are now offering customers the option of having their food brought to them by one of Kiwibot's semi-autonomous, four-wheeled rovers, said Kiwibot COO Diego Varela Prada.

The chain is keenly interested to see the bot's impact on the customer experience, 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," he said.

Other benefits of the bots include faster and cheaper delivery as well as a smaller carbon footprint. 

"What we promise is to at least halve the time it takes for all orders a mile or closer, and more than half the cost" of the average delivery, Prada said. The average delivery takes 30 minutes and costs $1.99, the company said.

Chick-fil-A will be using the latest version of the robot, which features upgraded cameras, lights and other features designed to enhance the customer experience, such as the ability to "wink." The machines are not yet fully autonomous--human supervisors monitor them remotely to help them do things like cross the street, for instance.

The Chick-fil-A news is part of a broader growth push unveiled Tuesday by Kiwibot. It is working with electric scooter company Segway to help it develop and scale its technology, and next month it will launch a delivery partnership with Shopify in Los Angeles, San Jose, Miami, Pittsburgh and Detroit. It's also working on other restaurant partnerships, Prada said. Kiwibot was founded in 2017 and has completed 150,000 food deliveries.

Robotic food delivery has been picking up steam recently. On Monday, Domino's announced a partnership with self-driving delivery service Nuro in Houston, and Reef Technology is using Cartken robots to deliver from its ghost kitchens in Miami. And last month, Chipotle Mexican Grill invested in Nuro

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