While my colleagues are across the Pacific this week at the SKS Japan show, I’ve been thinking about college. Specifically, how college and university campuses are a lucrative frontier for food delivery.
Unless you’re in an urban campus like NYU, where delivery, takeout, and street food options already abound, the average college campus has everything a food-delivery service could want in terms of customers: lots of bodies packed tightly together, pulling late hours in locations where food isn’t always a given (e.g., the library).
Third-party delivery services like DoorDash and Grubhub already provide a presence on campuses, along with a much-needed alternative to soggy spaghetti and stale Cheerios. But for bigger corporations who’ve long been a part of the university foodservice world, third-party delivery is a competitive threat to their very relevance on campus.
Not surprising, then, that some of these legacy foodservice companies are starting to respond with their own contributions to delivery. This week food services provider Aramark, who works with more than 400 universities in the U.S., announced it had acquired meal delivery company Good Uncle.
Via Good Uncle’s app, students can order chef-made meals and snacks that are typically cheaper than the average restaurant and don’t have delivery fees. While Good Uncle’s reach is relatively small right now, serving just eight campuses, its business model makes a lot of sense for an older company like Aramark trying to stay relevant to students in the food delivery era.
Exactly how Aramark will leverage this new acquisition remains to be seen, but it’s a smart move to get into the delivery space now. Grubhub has already been working its way onto campuses via its 2018 acquisition of Tapingo, and a growing number of delivery bots on campus brings both new ways to do food delivery for students and more competition for existing players. That includes Aramark rival Sodexo North America, who this year partnered with Starship Robotics to unleash fleets of wheeled bots onto college campuses.
An Eatsa-style Empire in Japan
But back to Japan.
My colleague Chris Albrecht got to experience not one but two awesome food-centric things this week: sushi burritos and high-tech restaurants.
Chris headed over to Beeat Sushi Burrito, a Tokyo restaurant that serves sushiritos and is powered by an end-to-end system that automates most of the order, pay, and pickup process for customers.
As Chris noted, though, UBO, the company behind the restaurant, is more focused on tech than food:
“Instead of selling sushiritos, UBO has developed the entire system from the software platform to the cameras installed in the cubbies that read the special QR codes that identify each order. UBO wants to license its tech stack to other restaurant chains, who can then integrate the automat style of eating into their own locations.”
It’s not unlike the Brighloom (nee Eatsa) system here in the U.S., which is an end-to-end restaurant tech stack that automates much of the customer’s restaurant experience and will do so even more now that it’s licensed some of Starbucks’ technology.
So while a sushirito empire isn’t the end goal for UBO, Beeat Sushi Burrito is another example of how the restaurant experience is getting automated and suggests we’ll see many more iterations of this in future, on either side of the Pacific. And, most likely, in colleges and universities, too.
Until next time,