While COVID has threatened salad bars with extinction, Chowbotics has unveiled new technological developments for its fresh food robot Sally that it says allows grocers to “reclaim” this once profitable area of the store.
Spurred by a need for safer self-serve experiences in vertical markets like grocery, the Hayward, Calif.-based Chowbotics has developed a mobile app for fast, contactless ordering. The company has also expanded the robot’s menu capabilities and introduced a large-format video interface designed to create an engaging customer experience, even when socially distanced.
“Through these new capabilities, Chowbotics continues to propel its mission of fresh food accessibility anytime, anywhere, bringing capabilities to foodservice and prepared food teams that were otherwise limited by new food safety challenges,” says the company.
Chowbotics’ proprietary app allows contactless ordering, creating a safer self-serve experience for patrons and faster throughput for operators, the company adds. Users can now browse the menu and place an order with their nearest Sally from anywhere, through their own personal smart devices. Upon arrival at the robot, a QR code is scanned to complete the order.
“We realized that with the pandemic there was growing demand for a contactless ordering experience,” said Chowbotics CEO Rick Wilmer, in a statement. “Customers greatly appreciate the custom nature of Sally’s made-to-order meals and easy-to-use interface, but they also want to reduce surface-contacts, which our contactless ordering experience provides.”
Allowing customers to view the menu and place an order before arriving also greatly increases the throughput of the robot by reducing ordering time. The average time to order and dispense a meal with the app is reduced by as much as 50% resulting in higher meals served per day capabilities for operators, according to the company.
Chowbotics’ culinary team has also created new menus that reflect customers’ changing tastes and needs, including quick, easy meals to bring back to their desk at home. Examples include dishes like Three Bean Salad, Thai Noodle Salad, Poke, and a Smoked Brisket Bowl.
“Sally also offers some very unique capabilities and opens a new, creative world for foodservice teams. We’re working directly with clients to develop menus that cater to their specific audiences and address their dietary preferences,” said Kang Kuan, VP, culinary for Chowbotics.
Not only does Sally the Robot engage with operators through the Chowbotics’ robot cloud management platform, a new video interface included on all new robots (and available as an add-on to existing ones) will allow operators to proactively engage with patrons and market specific items based on the menus they are running. This could mean displaying breakfast bowls in the morning and a barbecue bowl in the early evening to boost incremental sales. The interface also allows operators to engage new users with the fresh food robot from a distance and highlight ingredient sourcing or other partners.