Third party delivery service DoorDash has acquired Chowbotics, the company behind salad-making robot Sally. Terms of the deal were not disclosed. Chowbotics had raised nearly $21 million in funding since its founding in 2014.
The first question that pops to mind is, Why? Chowbotics’ technology is decidely stationary. Its robot is installed at a location and makes salads, yogurt bowls and more for people that come to it. DoorDash is a company built on mobility, getting food and other goods from other places to you.
Representatives from neither company were made available to comment.
The Wall Street Journal, which appears to have scooped the announcement earlier today wrote how a DoorDash+Chowbotics combo could work:
Ideas include using the technology to help restaurants expand their menu—such as enabling a pizzeria to offer salads—or to allow a salad bar to try out new locations—a kiosk at an airport, for instance—without the need for more manpower.
One of the big selling points of modern, automated vending machines is that they create, essentially, a restaurant in a box that can be placed anywhere. Chowbotics has co-branded machines with regional restaurant chain Saladworks, for example. DoorDash, with its vast marketplace of restaurants, could leverage those relationships to get co-branded Chowbotics machines in airports, hospitals and other high-traffic locations. Sally itself is versatile, holding 22 ingredients, so it could be easily adapted to different menus.
It’s not too hard to think DoorDash could also install Sallys at their own DashMart delivery-only chain of convenience stores to offer fresh food for delivery along with snacks and sundries.
But the new relationship could work in the other direction. Since the pandemic shut down salad bars, Chowbotics has seen increased interest from grocery retailers. DoorDash could use this as a wedge to get co-branded restaurant Sallys into retail and expand DoorDash’s grocery delivery ambitions.
Or, and this is a little more out there, DoorDash could be working on an autonomous mobile vending unit similar to what Yo-Kai Express is launching soon. A self-driving vending machine could travel around college and corporate campuses being hailed by hungry students and workers.
At the end of the day, the one thing DoorDash does give Chowbotics is scale. DoorDash is a publicly traded company with deep pockets and the largest marketshare of third-party delivery in the U.S. This means Chowbotics can focus on its technology and less on business development.
As they get more technologically advanced, we’re seeing more applications for vending machines. They are selling hot ramen, fresh made pizza, and even fresh dairy on farms. You can learn all about the industry in my Spoon+ market report The Great Vending Reinvention: The Spoon’s Smart Vending Machine Market Report (subscription required).