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DoorDash Adds Startup Chowbotics for Meal Preparation

The food-delivery service continues to chowdown on the market.
(Sundry Photography)
(Sundry Photography)
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DoorDash is acquiring robotics upstart Chowbotics, WSJ reports.

Why It Matters: DoorDash is demonstrating a clear interest in “automating food production when ordering in is at an all-time high.” Chowbotics’ tech can put together salads and poke bowls, as well as other dishes, and DoorDash is figuring out how best to deploy it. “We’re working on solutions to help merchants grow in an ever-challenging and changing landscape, and with Chowbotics we hope to enhance that level of support,” DoorDash said in a blog post.

Ideas, Ideas, Ideas: Some ways Chowbotics could successfully deploy its tech include helping restaurants expand their menu — like “enabling a pizzeria to offer salads” — or giving a salad bar the opportunity to operate in new areas (airport kiosks for example) without more manpower.

  • While automating production is a clear time and cost saver, it’s unclear how potential customers will take to the change.

Numbers To Consider:

  1. Chowbotics was valued at $46 million in 2018 and the companies did not disclose the terms of deal.

As far as competitors go, Uber has similar aspirations, investing in drones for its Eats business, but “dialed back those ambitions amid a broad restructuring last year.”

  • Uber recently shelled out $1.1 billion to acquire alcohol delivery service Drizly.

The Outlook: Food delivery continues to explode, in part thanks to the Covid-19 pandemic. DoorDash boasts new operational efficiencies that it achieved during the health crisis and controlled almost half of the U.S. food-delivery market as of mid-October. It only held about a third of the market as of a year earlier.

Justin Oh:

As much as DoorDash ($DASH) claims to be on a mission to help “mom and pop” businesses deliver their food and products to customers, I have noticed signs of centralized corporate ambitions. 

Yes, they are the best-executing independent contractor delivery network, but even they realize that their network effects aren’t the strongest and that they will eventually be limited by the TAM of restaurant takeout middleman.

They have partnered with corporate partners like Sam’s Club and Macy’s to deliver goods with their delivery network. Here we can see them attempting to expand their growth into outsourced local logistics for corporations.

Lastly, I have noticed that there are central, delivery-only kitchens popping up on apps like Postmates and DoorDash, masquerading as “restaurants”, but in fact they don’t exist on Google and only live on the apps. 

I have been wondering if these kitchens are actually owned by the apps themselves and that they have ambitions of becoming vertically-integrated food providers and take higher margins and stickiness. That’s where a robotic kitchen would come into play…

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