- Jamba by Blendid is expanding its robotic kiosks to the University of California Los Angeles this summer, in partnership with Associated Students UCLA.
- UCLA is the third college to open a Jamba by Blendid kiosk, following openings earlier this year at Georgia College and Kennesaw State University, according to a release emailed to Restaurant Dive. Prior to its partnership with Jamba, Blendid also established a presence at the University of San Francisco and Sonoma State University.
- Jamba by Blendid is targeting growth in nontraditional locations like shopping malls, gyms, hospitals, airports and Walmarts. Earlier this month, the concept announced it will pilot a kiosk at a Love’s Travel Shop in California.
Jamba by Blendid’s 24-hour service appears to be a good fit for high-traffic locations. College campuses in particular are populated with tech-savvy consumers, who are open to automation and may not have much free time during traditional restaurant hours. Research from Big Red Rooster also shows Gen Z diners are more likely to feel positive emotions in the presence of foodservice automation.
Several university campuses are testing similar products. For instance, automated pizza maker Picnic Works recently expanded to several college campuses after a successful pilot at Texas A&M and the University of Chicago. PizzaForno’s has opened automated pizza vending machines near the University of Michigan, while the fully-automated Brooklyn Dumpling Shop recently opened near the University of Connecticut. College campuses have also provided testing grounds for automated delivery bots.
In an email, Vipin Jain, co-founder and CEO of Blendid, told Restaurant Dive via email that Jamba by Blendid is especially appealing to students because it provides “fresh and nutritious” on-the-go food options.
“Today’s college students don’t always have time to head to the dining halls during designated food service hours, but they also don’t want to be limited to vending machines full of processed snacks. Fully autonomous robotic food solutions like the Jamba by Blendid kiosks give tech-savvy students a way to grab a delicious — and nutritious — smoothie while rushing between classes or heading to their next activity,” Jain said.
Jain expects the concept to expand to more colleges and universities, and hopes it will become a “standard foodservice option in the years ahead,” including as an addition to campus meal plans.
Blendid has raised more than $20 million since its founding in 2015 and has used much of that money to expand its footprint overall, and Jain expects that growth should continue. The food automation market is predicted to expand by nearly 10% per year through 2027, according to Meticulous Research, and Jain calls food robots “the future of foodservice.”
“Consumers are ready for robots, and the technology advances in artificial intelligence, robotics and computer vision systems needed to make autonomous robotic foodservice a reality have matured and converged,” Jain said. “These technology advances, as well as proven operational cost advantages and major consumer shifts, are driving the food industry to rapidly embrace robotics to make fresh and nutritious food options more accessible.”
Julie Littman contributed to this article.