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As Last-Mile Prices Rise, Autonomous Solutions Soar

Restaurants must find ways to offer convenient and cost-effective delivery to provide customers with the instant gratification and affordable delivery options they expect despite economic factors.
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In June, the City of New York passed legislation to establish a new minimum wage – adjusted annually for inflation – for food delivery workers. After several major delivery companies such as DoorDash and Grubhub filed lawsuits against the city, claiming the new law would damage their businesses and also be detrimental to delivery workers, that same legislation was blocked temporarily by a New York City judge. 

The drama around on-demand delivery workers underscores a larger problem: for all the benefits and conveniences third-party delivery companies provide, the business model isn’t sustainable at scale, and restaurants have been struggling to absorb their fees since before this legislation was on the table.

Restaurants must find ways to offer convenient and cost-effective delivery to provide customers with the instant gratification and affordable delivery options they expect -- despite economic factors such as inflation and wage increases.

Implementing autonomous delivery

Recent innovations in autonomous delivery solutions offer promising options for restaurants to relieve the pressure of rising costs without compromising on convenience. These services, which leverage robots, drones, and other unmanned vehicles, are not subject to minimum wage regulations, allowing restaurants to avoid raising fees and to explore new growth opportunities that bolster their bottom lines.

Robotic sidewalk delivery, for example, offers a more sustainable and efficient option for restaurants and retailers by lowering transportation costs and emissions. Unlike traditional delivery methods, autonomous delivery is not impacted by inflationary factors like the price of gas, as most of the solutions are battery powered. And such options have already proven they can bring food to households in mere minutes, at scale.

Likewise, in the suburbs, where shorter buildings and open spaces offer ample flight paths, autonomous drones can make delivery more efficient – a single drone operator can monitor multiple orders at once, and in so doing, keep delivery costs down. Compared to a traditional suburban courier, who can complete around two orders per hour (pending traffic and other external factors), a drone operator can make around 10 deliveries in that time, regardless of traffic or courier availability.

Not only are automated delivery services becoming increasingly viable, but these end-to-end solutions can be seamlessly integrated into restaurants’ existing logistical frameworks. 

A better customer experience

In addition to being more economically and environmentally friendly, robot and drone deliveries offer other ways to improve the customer experience as well.

By sidestepping traffic – or flying above it – restaurants can execute deliveries on time more consistently and minimize human error, which improves overall customer satisfaction and enhances these food providers’ reputation for timely and accurate service. Plus, faster delivery translates to customers enjoying fresher, hotter food. 

For example, the delivery robot manufacturer Serve Robotics reported a 99% fulfillment rate and 95% on-time delivery rate across over 20,000 deliveries to date. Compare that to traditional couriers, who have an on-time delivery rate of 83%.

With the rise of online ordering and delivery, customers increasingly seek convenience, speed, and reliability. Cutting-edge technologies like autonomous delivery solutions could be exactly the icing on the cake restaurants need to position themselves as leaders in the service industry.

New look, same great taste

Customers are increasingly comfortable with drones, robots, driverless cars, and other autonomous options in many facets of their life, which is why bringing these solutions to food delivery is a natural step. Indeed, anyone who has seen waiters input their orders on tablets or other devices knows that the future of the restaurant industry lies in its ability to adapt and leverage emerging technologies such as these. 

Autonomous delivery solutions provide a cost-cutting alternative that comes with the added benefits of greater sustainability and customer convenience. With robots in their corner, restaurants will be uniquely prepared to navigate the impact of inflation while driving growth, going green and staying ahead of the competition. 

Drone appetit!


About the Author

Ben Thein is COO of Flytrex, the on-demand drone delivery company. Flytrex provides a direct-to-consumer autonomous drone delivery service that lets retailers and quick-service restaurants (QSRs) cater to a wider customer base with faster, safer and more economical on-demand deliveries than ever before. Prior to Flytrex, Ben was VP Operations at Mindspace and before that, Head of Business Development at SodaStream. Ben is a graduate of Georgetown University and a former member of the Israel National Swimming team.  

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