Chick-fil-A delivery robots hit streets

Chick-Fil-A is the latest company that is trying out delivery robots.

The chicken chain is working with the Texas-based robotics company Refraction AI.  It is testing a small group of self-driving delivery vehicles in Austin.

The food will be placed in a locked section of the box-shaped robot on wheels.  The customer will receive a code to unlock the compartment with their food when the robot rolls up to their location.

Refraction's delivery robot travels in the margin of the road or in a bike lane to avoid issues of being on the sidewalk, without the cost of full-size autonomous vehicles.  They claim that it is able to make deliveries at a fraction of the cost of conventional delivery.

It is part of a growing trend in the restaurant industry to move towards automation.  It has been accelerating as businesses struggle to hire enough employees.

Dominos has been testing autonomous pizza delivery vehicles.  And a robot that can make 300 pizzas an hour was deployed at the Consumer Electronics Show a few years ago.  

Chili's restaurants are testing robot servers to help overworked restaurant staff.  The company hopes that the robot can take care of more mundane jobs like moving dishes in the kitchen so that the staff can spend more time with guests.   

It wasn't the first to try it.  A nationwide restaurant chain in South Korea started using a robot server in 2020.  It is equipped with software that features 3D spatial mapping and self-driving.  

One high-end sushi restaurant in Manhattan is using a sushi-making robot to increase takeout and delivery speeds.