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Food and Beverages | Monday, September 19, 2022

Technology-driven solutions enable on-demand food service options that engage people and provide nutritious, diverse meal selections in a safe and ecologically friendly manner.

FREMONT, CA: The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted several persistent concerns facing the food service industry, including supply chain and labor issues. It has also demonstrated the sector's inventiveness and resilience during crises. These characteristics will continue to be essential as we combat the pandemic's ongoing consequences and the environmental impact of food acquisition, preparation, and distribution.

Technology-driven solutions enable on-demand food service options that engage people and provide nutritious, diverse meal selections in a safe and ecologically friendly manner. For instance, last year, the robotic delivery system debuted at several university campuses, including the University of Denver and New Mexico State University, and is rapidly expanding to additional sites seeking new, convenient food delivery methods. It helps bring food services to consumers rather than requiring them to travel where food is served.

On college campuses, students can use their meal plans to purchase from participating dining facilities and stores via an app; the service is accessible to anybody with access to the app. The individual just places and tracks their order, meets the robot at its delivery location then uses the app to unlock the robot to get their goods. Standard delivery costs are $1.99 per order, with some locations charging an additional 10 percent of the order total to cover the expense of the service.

The electric-powered, zero-emission robots can travel up to four miles per hour and operate in up to six inches of snow and adverse weather conditions. The robots are outfitted on both sides with several cameras and employ machine learning, artificial intelligence, and very sensitive sensors to navigate sidewalks and obstructions. If the robot becomes stuck or is tampered with, it alerts a team of remote human operators for assistance. Small on-site personnel assists with problem resolution; however, students and others frequently assist robots under challenging situations.

During the pandemic, the contactless delivery service has provided an added benefit by feeding pupils while promoting social distance. Although the robots can handle up to three orders simultaneously, most campuses only deliver single meals and clean each robot properly after usage. This avoids the need for students to wait in large lines for food or expose themselves to potential illness by eating in the dining hall. Instead, students can order what they want, when they want it, and consume it in the comfort of their dorm room or another desired place. Even better, students and other customers enjoy interacting with the robots, whether they are merely seeing them navigate the campus or ordering food for delivery at their leisure.

Convenience is a significant factor in consumer involvement. Consumers are accustomed to getting a quick snack or beverage while going about their daily activities because vending machines have been there for a long time. However, the introduction of intelligent vending machines is expanding service choices, allowing campuses, businesses, hospitals, and other sites to offer consumers greater selection and convenience. Vending supports the "any meal, anytime, anyplace" approach by giving consumers innovative options, such as vending machines that allow users to make their salad or order a freshly-cooked pizza. The energy-efficient technology reduces food delivery time while assuring consumers receive nutritious, satisfying meals.

These are just a few technological advancements that are reshaping food service and engaging consumers in energy- and resource-efficient ways. Robotic delivery and intelligent vending machines promote the provision of food service around the clock and meet consumers where they are. This is crucial in the current on-demand consumer environment. Moreover, these disruptive technologies facilitate consumer engagement and nourishment while promoting green mobility and enhancing sustainability.

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