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At the start of the year, the word “contactless” wasn’t even in our collective food tech vocabulary.
Then in early February, we started hearing about “contactless” restaurant food delivery in China, where the novel coronavirus was raging at the time. In March, delivery services here in the U.S. like DoorDash, Postmates and Instacart started touting their contactless delivery as COVID-19 hit our shores.
Fast forward through lockdowns, a botched federal response to the pandemic, and a newfound heightened awareness around what other people have touched (or coughed on), and contactless delivery and payment methods are quickly becoming table stakes for any company in the food biz.
I write out the brief timeline below because news out this week makes it seem like we are moving into the next phase of our contactless future:
- In June, Apple announced Clips, which allows you to pay for items without needing to download a specific app and set up an account each time.
- In August, Minnow raised $2.2 million to further expand its contact-free delivery pod program.
- Also in August, a group of restaurants in Pasadena, CA announced that they were deploying PopID’s pay-with-your-face technology.
- This week, we wrote about Sensory, which creates a device that can be bolted on to QSR ordering kiosks to enable voice control.
- Yesterday we had a story up about Holo Industries, which is making a holographic menu that you can control by (not) touching.
I wouldn’t be surprised to see some kind of gesture control solution announced soon that allows you to control kiosks with a wave of your hand. That would create contactless interaction without worrying about your facial privacy concerns or needing to shout out your order for everyone to hear.
The point is that lingering effects of the pandemic will continue to have consumers re-evaluating who and what they have contact with. In other words, we are all going to learn a bunch of new words to describe innovations in payment and delivery.
Unleash the Beastro
While we’re on the subject of not touching things, the idea of removing humans from our food equation isn’t just about paying with your phone and having your pizza dropped off on the front porch.
A Tel Aviv company called Kitchen Robotics unveiled its new cooking robot for ghost kitchens last week. The hulking Beastro machine can pump out 45 meals an hour across a variety of cuisines and styles.
The idea of a more automated ghost kitchen makes a lot of sense. Ghost kitchens are all about efficient delivery and making food that will be traveling across town in some kind of non-descript container. So while the food needs to be good and hot, there doesn’t need to be any sort of artistry around it. A Beastro can theoretically churn out meals around the clock.
Additionally, kitchens aren’t necessarily the easiest place for human workers to social distance. Robots, on the other hand, don’t get sick and won’t get a human sick.
True, this type of automation could have big implications for the labor market, but as restaurants try to maintain profitability (or just break even), and a safe work environment, something like the Beastro could be too tempting to pass up.
Walmart+ Launches on September 15. Walmart’s answer to Amazon Prime will feature free same-day grocery delivery, as well as discounts on gas and subscriptions.
Climax Foods Raises $7.5 Million. Startup will use data and machine learning to turn plant-based ingredients into aged cheese.