Delivery Robots in Foodservice – Case Study

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The latest autonomous driving technology has started to be utilized within the retail, snacking, and foodservice industry in the form of self-driving delivery robots. The delivery robots foresight report explores how autonomous vehicles are the next step in vending technology, retail, and food service delivery.

What is the scope of delivery robots in vending technology, retail delivery, and foodservice delivery?

Leading brands have been piloting autonomous technology since pre-pandemic, namely in snacking (PepsiCo 2019), retail (Tesco 2020), and food service (Yum China 2021).

Self-driving cars are taking the spotlight in the future of vending and service delivery. Technology companies such as Nuro (USA), Starship Enterprises (UK), and Neolix (China), have designed vehicles that can move without a driver within set parameters such as a geofenced area, known as Level 4 automation.

Brands should start utilizing delivery robots to reduce carbon emissions, as Level 4 AVs have electric-powered properties. Delivery robots will play a central role in the continuous innovation brands aim to achieve, especially in creating more convenient experiences for digital-savvy consumers.

What was the impact of COVID-19 on retail and foodservice brands?

Convenience has been an ongoing motivating factor for consumers globally. However, this theme has been amplified since the COVID-19 pandemic, as demand for at-home delivery has risen. This is primarily driven by consumers experiencing more at-home lifestyles, and day-to-day purchases becoming more digitally orientated.

According to a survey conducted by GlobalData, the majority of consumers throughout the pandemic period claimed that they preferred ordering grocery and food service items online. This highlights the importance of delivery robots, as it provides a more convenient solution for consumers who order online directly from the retailer, without human interaction.

What are the key take-outs of the delivery robots foresight report?

Delivery robots will add new advantages to net-carbon transportation as well as provide innovation in convenience and digitalization.


Consumers are ordering more products online as a result of spending more time in the digital world generally. It has affected the nature of their product choices, as a notable proportion of younger consumers value “smart” services. In response to this, delivery robots would be a suitable alternative for traditional transport methods, as it is a more appealing solution to consumers who actively seek “smart” services. The use of delivery robots would also require few staff members, meaning more efficiency in terms of employment costs.


Sustainability continues to highly influence consumer decisions and ultimately affects their brand loyalty.  Level 4 AVs as delivery robots are electric-powered, which means they are energy-efficient and can considerably reduce the transport emissions for foodservice and retail brands, especially if they provide a direct-to-consumer delivery service. The utilization of delivery robots within a 20-mile radius can help brands meet sustainability objectives and partake in maintaining long-term brand loyalty from consumers.


Urban consumers living fast-paced lifestyles are often drawn to convenient services, which often leads to online ordering. As delivery robots are now regulated in many urban areas and universities, delivery robots can align closely with consumers with fast-paced lifestyles and demanding schedules. Delivery robots are a credible solution for brands who wish to explore the next steps in convenience, especially for direct-to-consumer delivery methods or alternatives to traditional channels, such as vending.

Post-pandemic behavior

Throughout the pandemic, consumer behavior changed dramatically, especially with regards to shopping and eating out. Delivery robots have become more relevant than ever, as online purchases have become more relevant to consumers globally. This trend is likely to continue in post-pandemic conditions, as more consumers intend to work from home after the COVID-19 period subsides. Delivery robots are a viable solution in keeping up with these emerging trends and offering limited human interaction for those who are concerned with human contact.

What are some of the major partnerships in the delivery robots market?

Leading brands across the industry including PepsiCo, Co-op, and Yum China have shown interest in the level 4 self-driving delivery service as a prospect.

PepsiCo Snackbot partnership with Robby Technologies

In 2019, PepsiCo piloted its Snackbot electric-powered delivery robots with a 20-mile radius developed by Robby Technologies at the University of the Pacific in Stockton. The autonomous vehicle was intended to bring an innovative approach to its existing better-for-you vending system Hello Goodness.

Co-op partnership with Starship technologies

In 2018, Co-op partnered with Starship Technologies to use emission-free robots for home delivery in Milton Keynes, England, within a 4-mile radius. The retail grocer expanded its robot delivery service to Northampton in 2020 and in 2021 announced its expansion to Cambridgeshire, totaling its robot delivery fleet to over 300.

Yum China Holdings partnership with Neolix 

In 2020, the automotive technology starts to be piloted by multiple foodservice providers globally, including Yum China partnering with Neolix to pilot self-driving cars for KFC and Pizza Hut. This vehicle would select its location based on data such as crowd density and customer order patterns. The technology is to effectively align with consumers who demand on-the-go experiences and digitally-driven services.


  • Delivery robots provide a solution for high accessibility, as it is meant to be a 24/7 service, and is highly convenient.
  • This aligns closely with the current consumer demand for fast delivery services that suit their time and money constraints.

Reasons to Buy

  • Consider emerging opportunities and threats in the fast-moving consumer goods market and gain insight into potential future consumer behavior.
  • Identify interesting new and emerging concepts, products, and ideas on offer in retail, foodservice, online spaces, and beyond.
  • Understand how new concepts and ideas fit into – or challenge – current consumer trends.
  • Gain insight and inspiration for innovation programs and new product development.

Yum! China
Starship Technologies
Robby Technologies

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