Technology

DoorDash is shutting down Sally the salad robot

The robot has not met expectations, the company said. DoorDash acquired Sally’s parent company, Chowbotics, last year.
Chowbotics robot
DoorDash was marketing Sally to restaurants as a way to expand their menus. / Photograph courtesy of DoorDash

DoorDash is powering down Sally the salad-making robot.

The delivery company confirmed Friday that it's shutting down Chowbotics, the division that makes and markets Sally, because it has not met internal benchmarks. 

Chowbotics will stop operations effective Aug. 31, resulting in about 35 layoffs, DoorDash said. Sally units that are currently in restaurants will be retired.

The news was first reported by OttoMate.

DoorDash acquired Chowbotics in February 2021 with plans to make the high-tech vending machines available to restaurants as a way to expand their menus. The robot can make on-demand salads, bowls and more using up to 22 ingredients. 

“At DoorDash, we create an environment to build new products and set high standards to determine when to scale, continue, or cut back investments,” the company said in a statement confirming the news. It added that it’s continuing to explore automation through a separate robotics division called DoorDash Labs.

Sally the salad robot

Sally can prepare made-to-order salads and other bowl meals. / Photograph courtesy of Chowbotics

Chowbotics was founded in 2014, and its 3-foot-by-3-foot Sally machine was in hundreds of hospitals, college campuses and grocery stores when it was acquired by DoorDash. The delivery company brought it to restaurants for the first time.

As recently as February, DoorDash appeared to be ramping up the Chowbotics business

It had filed trademark applications for a robotic food preparation and vending system called “DashBotics”—an apparent rebranding of Chowbotics. It also filed applications for restaurant brands that would be prepared by the bots—Tex-Mess and Queso Your Way—and the name “Dash2Go,” for a robotic food machine.

A Chowbotics webpage now has a message saying it's shutting down. Restaurants with questions about their robots are directed to email chowbotics-sales@doordash.com.

It’s a small but notable setback for restaurant automation, which has been gaining steam over the past year as operators battle labor shortages and rising costs. Automated kiosks like Sally have been catching on as well. Some see them as a way to offer customers easy, around-the-clock access to fresh food, particularly in nontraditional locations like airports, retail stores and hospitals.

However, the end of Sally is not the end of automation at DoorDash. In November, the company unveiled DoorDash Labs, a division that’s developing delivery robots to cover the so-called “middle mile” between restaurants and drivers. Under the proposed “hub-to-hub” model, DoorDash would aggregate orders in an area with a lot of restaurants. A robot would then deliver that batch of orders to a separate location, where human drivers would pick them up and complete the delivery.

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