Listen to this article
DoorDash, the popular food delivery service, is acquiring Chowbotics, a Calif.-based robotics startup best known for Sally, a vending machine-like robot that can make salads and other fresh meals. Terms of the acquisition were not disclosed.
The move indicates DoorDash is interested in automating food production. According to The Wall Street Journal, which was first to report the news, DoorDash is exploring how to deploy Chowbotics’ technology across restaurants. “Ideas include using the technology to help restaurants expand their menu – such as enabling a pizzeria to offer salads – or to allow a salad bar to try out new locations – a kiosk at an airport, for instance – without the need for more manpower.”
This isn’t the first robotics company DoorDash has worked with. It has explored automating food delivery via partnerships with Starship Technologies and Cruise. DoorDash has the greatest share of the U.S. food delivery market, around 48%. Its competitors include UberEats and Grubhub.
With demand for contact-less food preparation increasing during the COVID-19 pandemic, Chowbotics announced a partnership with Saladworks in August 2020 to expand its menu. Working in a 3’x3’ space, Sally uses precision robotics to assemble customizable salads from up to 22 ingredients. They are then sealed for safety and freshness in an airtight refrigerated container. At the time this partnership was announced, Chowbotics said it had already deployed more than 100 robots that have served over 185,000 meals to date.
Founded in 2014, Chowbotics has raised about $21 million to date, including an $11 million round back in 2018. Chowbotics CEO Rick Wilmer wrote about the acquisition on Chowbotics’ blog today. We’ve reposted the blog below:
“Making fresh food more accessible and convenient has always been core to our mission. As a part of DoorDash, this mission is now turbocharged. The expertise and scale of DoorDash unlocks our most ambitious aspirations to enable food convenience through technology. As the leader in food delivery and on-demand logistics, DoorDash is uniquely positioned to further accelerate Chowbotics’ market presence and new product development. At the same time, Chowbotics’ technology will enable DoorDash merchants to expand their menu offerings to reach new customers or markets without the need to invest in new stores. Without doubt, we found the most ideal home to help our partners grow and navigate the ever-changing foodservice landscape.
“From our very first exploratory meetings, the synergy was obvious. DoorDash has led its work with a meaningful vision, built an amazing team, and created an incredible culture. We already feel so welcome and so well supported, and want to thank DoorDash for making us feel like we’re home.
“Our journey to this moment was fueled by the dedication of our wonderful employees. I am deeply grateful for every single one of them. It goes without saying we did not get here alone. We would not have realized this next step in our journey without the foodservice operators, chefs, and business teams across the world at hospitals, schools, grocery stores, and more who fearlessly pushed the boundaries of fresh food by putting their trust in our company and technology. This wonderful new partnership would not have been possible without their dedication to bringing fresh meals to people in completely new ways. We look forward to supporting these partners with a relentless commitment to their success and continued innovation in food robotics.
“It’s humbling and a true honor to be a part of this amazing company. The whole team at Chowbotics is beyond excited about this powerful partnership and the impact we can have together to provide better access to fresh, delicious meals. We welcome everyone to this next phase of #FreshForAll.”