Self-driving cars are not yet widespread, but testing is ongoing. Common wisdom is that delivery of packages and food will ramp up much faster than actual human transport will.
Ford, Toyota and several other manufacturers are running pilot programs. There has been some bugginess, but it truly is the way of the future, so it’s inevitable they will be worked out. In the current Domino’s/Ford partnership, the cars only appear unmanned. There is a driver inside assessing customer reaction and experience.
Where is the opportunity?
It’s possible to get food delivered faster and less expensively through the use of self-driving cars. Restaurants don’t have to worry about keeping delivery drivers on standby when you’re uncertain what demand may exist any given night. Once autonomous vehicles become commonplace, it may become a much more cost-effective method of delivering fresh meals to customers.
What are the risks?
Self-driving delivery is not door-to-door, people must leave their homes to go out to the vehicle to claim their meal. There is also the technical phobia that may be associated with customers needing to interact with unmanned vehicles. So far that has not been the case. Customers seem to enjoy interacting with the interface, following simple instructions without problems. Eventually drones or sidewalk robots may close this gap.
How can restaurants prepare for the future?
It may take a little time for self-driving delivery to trickle down to independent restaurants. That doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t start investigating your options. For example, if your restaurant has a drive-through window, or the capacity to install one, you may be able to deliver at a high volume without increasing the square footage of your business. Also, with the proliferation of third-party delivery services, how your meals make it to your take-out customers may prove to be less and less of your concern.
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