Fast casual restaurant chain Saladworks announced today that it will be using Chowbotics’ Sally robot to expand into hospitals, universities and grocery stores. According to the press release, the Sally machines will feature Saladworks’ branding and exclusively carry menu items from Saladworks’ menu.
This deal actually makes a lot of sense. First, Sally is compact, coming in at only 3 ft. x 3 ft. This means the robot can be installed almost anywhere, and that Saladworks can extend its brand into high-traffic areas without needing to build out a full store. Plus, vending machines like Sally can run 24 hours a day.
Second, during this pandemic, restaurants (and consumers) have been looking for ways to reduce the amount of human-to-human contact involved in day-to-day foodservice operations. Not only does the Sally robot make the salads sans humans, it also keeps all of its 22 fresh ingredients sealed away in chambers which are themselves sealed up behind glass. Customers can literally see where their order is coming from as it is dispensed.
Finally, and some might say this is the most important thing, Sally makes a good salad. All the convenience and COVID-19 protections in the world don’t make a difference if no one wants to eat what you’re making.
One item of particular note in the press announcement is how Saladworks is targeting grocery stores in its go-to market. Prior to the pandemic, retailers were not too keen on robotic vending services like Sally because they were redundant to what grocery stores already offered. But as the coronavirus has grocery stores removing things like salad bars, those vending machines become more attractive. Just last month, ShopRite partnered with Chowbotics to put a Sally in its Carteret, NJ store. Having the Saladworks brand, which is probably more well known in certain geographic areas than Chowbotics, on the machine and the Saladworks menu could entice more people to try it out.
This is the second such restaurant partnership for Chowbotics, which previously partnered with SaladStation to roll out 50 Sally robots across seven states.
It’s not hard to imagine that Chowbotics has a steady pipeline of similar co-branded restaurant deals in the works. As noted above, the small footprint, low-cost and relatively low-touch aspects of robotic vending machines could make them attractive platforms for restaurants looking for growth opportunities during this pandemic.