Tech Tracker rounds up what’s happening in the technology sector of the restaurant industry, including news from operators, vendors, digital platforms and third-party delivery companies. Here’s what you need to know this week:
DoorDash starts nationwide shipping; acquires Finnish delivery platform Wolt
DoorDash had multiple announcements this month, including the start of nationwide shipping available on DoorDash and Caviar platforms. Starting this month, customers will be able to order food from participating restaurants, even if they live hundreds of miles away.
Starting participating restaurants include Carlo’s Bakery in Hoboken, N.J.; Katz’s Deli and Carbone in New York City; Get Maine Lobster in Portland, Maine; and Big Shakes Hot Chicken in Franklin, Tenn. Products will be available via free shipping with an estimated delivery date of 2-4 days from time of ordering.
- Why it matters: DoorDash could become a major competitor to Goldbelly with the launch of nationwide shipping. Like Goldbelly, DoorDash will offer free shipping for most products, though the cost is likely built into the price. DoorDash also already has a built-in network of major restaurant brands already on its platform. We predict that other third-party delivery companies could follow suit with similar offerings.
In other DoorDash news this month, the third-party delivery company acquired Finnish delivery platform Wolt for € 7 billion ($7.9 billion USD). Wolt has a major international presence in 23 countries, particularly in Eastern Europe and most recently launched a network in Asia, with the introduction of its delivery capabilities in Tokyo. Wolt cofounder and CEO Miki Kuusi will now run DoorDash’s international division.
- Why it matters: Previously, Europe and Asia have had their own versions of Grubhub, DoorDash and Uber, with similar digital platforms and delivery capabilities. But with this acquisition, we might see more of a globalization of restaurant delivery with American restaurant technology platforms expanding internationally. We expect to see a larger DoorDash presence soon in the global community
Uber and Grubhub try out robotic delivery
Uber announced on Nov. 8 a partnership with Serve Robotics (founded as the robotics division of Uber-owned Postmates) to begin testing out on-demand robotic food delivery in Los Angeles in early 2022. The Uber partnership will be Serve’s first commercial partner since the company spun off as an independent entity this year, and Los Angeles will be the testing ground for these AI contactless deliveries.
Similarly, Grubhub announced Wednesday that the company is also dipping its toes into AI capabilities with the launch of robot delivery at the University of Arizona in partnership with Yandex Self-Driving Group’s fleet of rovers. This test follows a previous announcement of robot delivery available at Ohio State University. Rovers operate 7 days a week, and can deliver food to dorms or other spots on campus like the library and student center at 3-5 miles per hour, with the capability of traversing challenging terrain like curbs.
- Why it matters: Robot delivery is quickly turning the corner from “futuristic novelty” to “technology to invest in now.” Right now, technology companies are still in the beta testing phase where they’re gauging consumer interest in test markets. But we predict that delivery robots could very well become a mainstay over the next several years.
Uber expands partnership with Olo
E-commerce platform announced this month the expansion of its partnership with Uber, with Uber Direct fully integrating its technology into Olo’s delivery fulfillment solution, Dispatch. Now Olob customers will have access to more direct restaurant delivery capabilities, including alcohol delivery (which will be tested in 2022).
Olo Dispatch will now integrate with Uber Direct, so that when an order for delivery is made for a restaurant that’s an Olo customer, the solution platform will automatically select a delivery option, including a restaurant’s own fleet of drivers and now Uber’s delivery couriers, based on availability, location, and timing.
- Why it matters: Several years ago, when it became clear that growing your digital presence and delivery capabilities was crucial even for independent restaurants, one of the biggest questions was: how do we get these forms of technology to talk to one another and work together? We likely will continue seeing these technology integrations that make it easier for operators to consolidate platforms and expand digital capabilities, all while mitigating some of the technology learning curve.
Yelp adds a social media feed
This month, Yelp unveiled its new vertical feed featuring “popular content from local restaurants in users’ cities,” essentially adding a social media element to the business review site and technology platform. Social media content will include AI-populated images of popular dishes from restaurants and Yelp Connect: content uploaded directly from local restaurants. Yelp Connect is currently a paid feature and was rolled out to 25 U.S. states on Nov. 9.
- Why it matters: Yelp is starting to look a lot like Instagram. However, unlike Instagram — which is user-focused — Yelp’s vertical feed is seemingly designed to introduce potential customers to new restaurant options through a visual medium that they’re used to: endlessly scrolling through a social media feed. We’re starting to see a lot more premium features offered by big names in restaurant technology, designed to give operators more options to get more eyeballs on menus and fingers on the “click to order” button.
Shake Shack implements contactless payments
Shake Shack announced this month a partnership with FreedomPay and is rolling out digital contactless payment capabilities for customers, including both GooglePay and Apple Pay both in-person and for online purchases.
“FreedomPay gives us the ability to standardize how we are managing payments across all of our channels in an integrated way,” Dave Harris, CIO of Shake Shack said in a statement.
- Why it matters: Customers want more options, and they want to be able to seamlessly choose in-person and digital experiences at their favorite restaurants without friction. Adding digital wallet capabilities for online purchases in addition to contactless payments already in stores just puts Shake Shack capabilities on par with these rising guest expectations.
In other “can’t miss” technology news….
Toast just announced a number of new products in its technology suite: the first business debit card for restaurant operators, and the company is also creating an order hub for all first and third-party orders to easily integrate in one system. Toast is also rolling out new employee management and payroll tools this month.
Bbot is rolling out software meant specifically for ghost kitchen brands, including features like order aggregation, multi-vendor ordering, and first-party delivery, all in one platform.
Landry’s is now partnering with NYDIG to offer a bitcoin loyalty rewards program, shifting the scale from “gimmick or novelty” to “promising investment” for restaurants looking to dabble in the virtual currency.
Contact Joanna at [email protected]
Find her on Twitter: @JoannaFantozzi