- DoorDash will shutter Chowbotics, its robotic salad-maker arm, DoorDash confirmed to Restaurant Dive Friday. Chowbotics’ operations will cease on Aug. 31, just 18 months after DoorDash acquired it. The company didn’t disclose how many Chowbotics “Sally” robots are currently in operation.
- Closing Chowbotics is part of the company’s innovation cycle and investment strategy, a DoorDash spokesperson wrote in an email. Christopher Albrecht, author of food robotics substack OttOmate, who was the first to report the news, wrote Sally robots weren’t meeting DoorDash’s internal benchmarks. The DoorDash spokesperson confirmed this report.
- DoorDash launched its own robotics team, called DoorDash Labs, in November, aiming to automate “the middle mile.” Last week it filed patents indicating it’s exploring developing autonomous delivery vehicles.
Chowbotics’ closure, combined with DoorDash’s recent patents and public statements, point to a company focused on delivery automation. But DoorDash isn’t abandoning exploration of automated food preparation, according to its spokesperson.
“We always start by first making sure that we build the best product possible, especially measured in terms of retention and order frequency. We have a maniacal focus on the unit map to get the unit economics to work, and then we start considering efficient ways to actually scale that business,” Tony Xu, co-founder and CEO at DoorDash, said on the company’s Q1 2022 earnings call.
Chowbotics mostly targeted hospitals and universities as places where its 24-hour kiosks could supplement existing foodservice options. It has also partnered with a few grocers, including Heinen’s and ShopRite. While the company is relatively small — Albrecht reports its closure will lead to about 35 layoffs — and only raised roughly $21 million before it was acquired by DoorDash, its closure is part of a growing pattern of cutbacks on the tech side of the foodservice industry.
The Save Mart Companies ended a partnership with Starship Technologies last week amid layoffs and operation reductions at the robotic delivery company. Meanwhile, Reef Technology laid off 5% of its global workforce in May. Butler Hospitality, a hotel foodservice and technology company, folded earlier this year as well, taking as many as 1,000 jobs with it.
Despite some closures and layoffs amid a tightening capital market, however, some restaurant robotics companies have continued to grow. Miso Robotics entered a new partnership with Amazon Web Services in June, for example, to speed up product development.
Chowbotics urged companies that have deployed Sally robots to contact it with any questions they may have.