DoorDash is expanding its robotic footprint into the kitchen. The delivery service is set to acquire Chowbotics, a Bay Area-based robotics best known for its salad-making robot, Sally. TechCrunch has confirmed the acquisition, which was first noted by The Wall Street Journal.
“We have long admired the work that Chowbotics has done to increase access to fresh meals, with its groundbreaking robotics product and vision,” DoorDash co-founder Stanley Tang said in a comment offered to TechCrunch. "At DoorDash, we are always working to innovate and continue improving how we support our merchant partners and their success -- and are excited to leverage this technology to do so in new ways. With the Chowbotics team on board, we can explore new use cases and customers, providing another service to help our merchants grow."
Founded in 2014, Chowbotics has raised around $21 million to date, including an $11 million round back in 2018. The company’s vending machine-style salad bar robot was already well-positioned for the pandemic, removing a human element from the food preparation process -- not to mention the fact that salad bars and buffets tend to be open air affairs. In October, the startup added a contactless feature to the robot, letting users order ahead of time, via app.
“Joining the DoorDash team unlocks new possibilities for Chowbotics and the technology that this team has built over the past seven years,” CEO Rick Wilmer said in a statement. “As the leader in food delivery and on-demand logistics, DoorDash has the unparalleled reach and expertise to help us grow and deploy our technology more broadly, so together, we can make fresh, nutritious food easy for more people.”
It’s not entirely clear how the company’s technology will fit into the delivery service’s current offering, though DoorDash notes it will “improve consumer access to fresh and safe meals, and enhance our robust merchant offerings and logistics platform.” It also remains to be seen whether Chowbotics will continue to operate as its own entity within the broader DoorDash. We’ve reached out for more insight.
“At DoorDash, we strive to become a merchant’s first call when they want to grow their business,” Tang said. “What excites us most about Chowbotics is that the team has developed a remarkable tool for helping merchants grow. Bringing Chowbotics’ technology into the DoorDash platform gives us a new opportunity to help merchants expand their current menu offerings and reach new customers in new markets -- which is a fundamental part of our merchant-first approach to empowering local economies.”
DoorDash has been working with robotics companies for a number of years now. Perhaps the most prominent example is a partnership with Starship Technologies to explore food delivery robots. Though that technology has seen a fair number of roadblocks among local officials not eager to turn their sidewalks over to robots. The delivery company likens Chowbotics’ kiosk-style technology to its work with ghost kitchens, effectively serving as a conduit to help expand food options at local merchants – be it in store or through delivery. The former will likely be of more interest once the current pandemic is in the rear view.
Details of the acquisition have not been disclosed.