- DoorDash has acquired the salad-making robot company Chowbotics, whose product is used in hundreds of locations, including universities, hospitals and grocery stores, according to a DoorDash blog post. Chowbotics was valued at $46 million in 2018, The Wall Street Journal reported.
- The 3-foot-by-3-foot robots create customizable salads, grain and poke bowls, parfaits, cereals and snacks.
- DoorDash's purchase of Chowbotics will provide restaurants with a tool to expand into additional markets without building a new store.
As the pandemic nears the 1-year mark, food delivery companies like DoorDash are moving beyond ramping up their offerings to purchasing services that could potentially make them more indispensable to restaurants and retailers. Just last week Uber said it was going to purchase Drizly for $1.1 billion, integrating an alcohol delivery service that has seen dramatic growth over the last year and could drive more customers to its Uber Eats app.
"The addition of Chowbotics’s capabilities allows us to enhance our broad array of merchant services — which include customer acquisition, on-demand delivery, insights and analytics, and white-label order fulfillment — and in a more cost-effective way," Penn Daniel, general manager at DoorDash, wrote in the blog post.
What Chowbotics brings to the table is automation. A few regional grocers, including Heinen's, ShopRite and Coborn's, have added Chowbotics' signature kiosk, Sally, to their stores as an alternative to their shuttered salad bars. And DoorDash, which offers grocery delivery to a growing number of retailers, could offer robot-made meals as one of its partnership services.
Sally, which holds 20 compartments of fresh ingredients that shoppers can mix and match, offers an undeniable "wow" factor for shoppers. But it's unclear if they'll use the machine regularly inside a grocery store. Heinen's has been underwhelmed by Sally's performance over the past several months inside one of its Ohio locations, according to Chris Foltz, the grocer's chief innovation officer. Shoppers have instead opted for Heinen's growing assortment of packaged salads.
"I thought that [Sally] would deliver the customized piece, but a lot of people don't want to hassle with that as much," Foltz said. Heinen's is planning to repurpose Sally for its new health loyalty program, potentially placing the machines inside office buildings and other offsite locations.
In addition to grocery partnerships, DoorDash has ridden the wave of restaurant takeout demand on its way to an IPO in December. It's offering different tools to restaurant operators, like its DoorDash Kitchen ghost kitchen operation and DoorDash Storefront, which enables restaurants to create turnkey online ordering websites. The company has also developed its own online convenience store, DashMart, which debuted in August and now operates in several cities.
With new funding from its IPO, Chowbotics is likely to be just the beginning of DoorDash's tech acquisitions, as the company noted it plans to use some of the money to expand its platform and develop or acquire new features.