Tech Tracker: Robots brewing Panera coffee and drones delivering wings

Sam Fried

Convenience delivered by machine is the theme of this month’s technology news roundup. From Flytrex expanding its partnership with Brinker brands to bring super-fast delivery to the Dallas area, to burger vending machines and a new Miso Robotics AI product that can automatically make coffee, the restaurant industry is at […]

Convenience delivered by machine is the theme of this month’s technology news roundup. From Flytrex expanding its partnership with Brinker brands to bring super-fast delivery to the Dallas area, to burger vending machines and a new Miso Robotics AI product that can automatically make coffee, the restaurant industry is at the forefront of human-free technologies.

Tech Tracker rounds up what’s happening in the technology sector of the restaurant industry, including news from restaurants, vendors, digital platforms, and third-party delivery companies. Here’s a breakdown of what you need to know and why:

Panera Bread tests coffee-brewing robot

The MisoRobotics fleet of robots keeps expanding: From Flippy the fry cook to Sippy the automated soft drink dispenser and Chippy the Chipotle tortilla chip robot. Now the latest AI kitchen helper to join the fray is the CookRight Coffee AI intelligence-powered system that can use data and predictive analytics to brew “the perfect cup of coffee.”

Panera Bread is the first brand to test this new robotics product (which does not come with an anthropomorphic name) and will be using it to eliminate some manual labor, including manual checks of the coffee urn and coffee volume and temperature to assure ideal coffee freshness and temperature at any time of day. The robot is also designed to evolve as it learns its environment more.

 “CookRight Coffee is a game-changer when it comes to convenience and operational efficiency,” Panera senior vice president and chief digital officer George Hanson said in a statement.

Brinker expands drone delivery with Flytrex

The age of ultra-fast delivery is here, with a little help from drone technology. Brinker International, Inc. is expanding its partnership with Flytrex, bringing five-minute, human-free deliveries to the Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas area.

“With a focus on guest experience and convenience – alongside our killer wings – this new outpost in partnership with Flytrex is another exciting step in the right direction,” Wade Allen, senior vice president of innovation for Brinker said in a statement.

Flytrex first launched its super-fast, automated drone delivery service in Iceland in 2017, and recently received a waiver from the FAA that allowed it to expand delivery service to 10,000 homes in cities across North Carolina.

DoorDash partners with Wix, adds DashPass for students

DoorDash announced in March a new partnership with Wix cloud-based development platform to launch on-demand delivery with DoorDash Drive. Now restaurants that build their website using Wix can fulfill direct delivery orders through their own website, without using DoorDash directly.

But that’s not the only news DoorDash announced this month. The third-party delivery company announced DashPass for students for $4.99 a month (it normally costs $9.99 a month), with unlimited zero-delivery fee orders and promos. DashPass for students membership is eligible for all undergraduate and graduate students at accredited colleges and universities in the U.S.  

RoboBurger launches the first AI burger chef in a vending machine

The first robot burger vending machine opened at a mall in New Jersey in March. RoboBurger can make a burger in less than six minutes, is contactless, and does not require human hands to operate.

The machine — which fits into a space of 12 square feet — includes a refrigerator, an automated griddle and cleaning system. The robot chef grills the patty, toasts the bun, dispenses the selected condiments and delivers it for $6.99 per burger. The technology will be rolled out to more locations, including malls, airports, colleges, and office spaces, soon.

“I started RoboBurger in my garage 17 years ago, and now there couldn’t be a better time to bring it to life and have everyone experience it,” said Audley Wilson, RoboBurger co-founder and CEO.

Thanx acquires ZeroStorefront data insights platform

Loyalty and guest engagement platform Thanx announced earlier this month the acquisisition of data insights platform ZeroStorefront to advance the progression of “loyalty 3.0.”

ZeroStorefront will provide “data-driven insights” about Thanx restaurant customers to drive personalized options for loyalty programs. Thanx restaurant operator customers include Velvet Taco, Hopdoddy Burger Bar, Modern Restaurant Concepts, and Kneader’s Bakery and Cafe.

It’s also the second acquisition for Thanx recently: the company also acquired Hidden Menu, which allows operators to offer hidden menus for loyalty customers to access secret menu items.

Yelp adds health inspections to restaurant profiles

Yelp launched a new feature at the end of March that displays health inspection information of restaurants for customers browsing Yelp listings.

Partnering with data and technology solutions company Hazel Analytics, Yelp now has access to health and hygiene information for 700,000 businesses in 48 U.S. states. You can find health scores of a restaurant under the “amenities and more” tab on a yelp profile.

The health score that shows up will be either a health department score that’s received directly from the local health department, a score from Hazel that uses publicly available health data, or and estimated health score on a 100-point scale based on a health department’s inspection comments.

“The expansion of Yelp’s health scores program comes at a time when people are returning to indoor dining as COVID-19 restrictions continue to lift, health inspections are restarting from the early pandemic pause, and restaurants are embracing more diner safety measures like contactless payments and virtual menus,” Yelp said in a blog post announcing the new feature.

Olo is now partnering with Vromo and Soci technology platforms

Olo announced two technology partnerships this month: With delivery management solution company, Vromo, Olo restaurants will be able to further simplify the process of communicating restaurant orders with dispatch using route optimization technology to save restaurants (and drivers) time.

Vromo claims that with this capability, restaurants can increase delivery capacity, shorten delivery times and strengthen customer confidence. The partnership is available to Olo’s network of 500+ multi-unit restaurant brands.

Olo’s partnership with marketing platform Soci, meanwhile, will be the connector of localized data and digital menu management, and giving Olo a single place where customer location data can be updated. The operator’s name, address, phone number, hours of operation, and other location information, including brand determined menu links, will be updated across platforms including Google, Facebook, Apple Maps, Yelp.

MAVI introduces in-vehicle restaurant ordering technology

In-car ordering continues to be a piece of growing technology that truly refines the “meet the customer where they are” mantra (even if they’re in a moving vehicle). Mavi.io announced this month the creation of Mavi commerce ordering. Called OnMyWay, the technology lets driving customers voice order pickup from restaurants, stores, and service providers without having to pick up the phone while they’re driving.

“Drivers love the convenience of curbside pickup and they want to be able to shop from their cars safely and efficiently in order to make the most of each trip,” Cynthia Hollen, CEO and co-founder of Mavi.io said in a statement. “Mavi gives consumers a safe and easy way to shop from the driver’s seat […] For retailers and service providers, Mavi’s in-car marketplace brings customers back to their store doors and drives new customer acquisition, sales and loyalty, ensuring they can meet their on-the-go customers’ needs for immediacy and convenience.”

Landed hiring tool raises $7 million in seed funding

Landed, the digital recruitment tool, has announced a $7 million round of seed funding after growing its revenue 20 times since the start of 2021.

Javelin Venture Partners and Blockchain Capital led this round of seec funding, while other investors include Lightspeed Venture Partners, the founders of online glasses retailer Warby Parker, shaving supply company Harry’s, Allbirds’ Good Friends fund, and the founders of José Andrés’ ThinkFood Group.

Landed works to connect blue collar workers seeking employment with restaurant and retail companies like Cava, Blaze Pizza, Panera, Chick-fil-A, Taco Bell, using hiring automation to make sure companies receive a roster of diverse and qualified job candidates. This tool is especially useful in an age where retention rates in the restaurant and retail industry are low.

Contact Joanna at [email protected]

Find her on Twitter: @JoannaFantozzi


https://www.nrn.com/technology/tech-tracker-robots-brewing-panera-coffee-and-more-drones-delivering-it-s-just-wings

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