- DoorDash has acquired the salad-making robot company Chowbotics, whose product is used in hundreds of locations, including universities, hospitals and grocery stores, according to a DoorDash blog post. Chowbotics was valued at $46 million in 2018, The Wall Street Journal reported.
- The 3-foot-by-3-foot robots create customizable salads, grain and poke bowls, parfaits, cereals and snacks.
- DoorDash's purchase of Chowbotics will provide restaurants with a tool to expand into additional markets without building a new store.
As the pandemic nears the 1-year mark, food delivery companies like DoorDash are moving beyond ramping up their offerings to purchasing services that could potentially make them more indispensible to restaurants. Just last week Uber said it was going to purchase Drizly for $1.1 billion, integrating an alcohol delivery service that has seen dramatic growth over the last year and could drive more customers to its Uber Eats app.
What Chowbotics brings to the table is automation. It allows for contactless ordering through a mobile app and could increase the speed to get orders out. In 2020, fast casual Saladworks partnered with the startup and has expanded rapidly since then. It has grown by more than 40 restaurant locations — mostly in untraditional locations like grocery stores — and entered new markets, from California to Florida and Indiana to Canada. This strategy could be a roadmap for other fast casuals looking to build out without larger real estate and labor costs.
"The addition of Chowbotics’s capabilities allows us to enhance our broad array of merchant services — which include customer acquisition, on-demand delivery, insights and analytics, and white-label order fulfillment — and in a more cost-effective way," Penn Daniel, general manager at DoorDash, wrote in the blog post.
Even before the pandemic, DoorDash developed several programs aimed to find new ways for restaurants to reach customers. For example, in 2019, it rolled out its first DoorDash Kitchen, a ghost kitchen operation in the San Francisco Bay Area.
The coronavirus crisis only accelerated its rollout of merchant tools, including DoorDash Storefront, which enables restaurants to create turnkey online ordering websites. The company debuted DashMart in August, allowing restaurants to sell retail products, such as branded barbecue sauce, to consumers. DoorDash also added a self-delivery program in December to give restaurants a way to list their menus online, but fulfill delivery themselves.
With new funding from its IPO, Chowbotics is likely to be just the beginning of DoorDash's tech acquisitions, as the company noted it planned to use some of the money to expand its platform and develop or acquire new features.