Robot food delivery coming to college campuses this fall

Grubhub and Russia-based Yandex are teaming up to bring meal services to students through rovers.
By: | July 7, 2021
Photos courtesy of Grubhub/Yandex

Students at more than 250 colleges and universities already enjoy the ease of Grubhub’s food delivery service, but it’s about to get a lot more streamlined.

Grubhub announced it has partnered with Yandex Self-Driving Group to bring its autonomous robots to campuses across the United States starting with several institutions this fall, giving those on the go or at their apartments a more convenient way to get their orders completed.

The Yandex “rovers”, which have successfully delivered thousands of meals from restaurants and supermarkets through similar platforms in Russia, can navigate in tight campus spaces and pathways where other large vehicles might not be able to manage terrain well.

“While college campuses are notoriously difficult for cars to navigate, specifically as it relates to food delivery, Yandex robots easily access parts of campuses that vehicles cannot—effectively removing a major hurdle universities face when implementing new technology,” said Brian Madigan, vice president of corporate and campus partners at Grubhub. “Together with Yandex, we’re changing the way college students experience food delivery. We’re excited to offer these cost-effective, scalable and quick food ordering and delivery capabilities to adapt to students’ unique dining needs.”

For Yandex, the partnership was a no-brainer given Grubhub’s reach and popularity with students.

“We chose to partner with Grubhub because of its unparalleled reach into college campuses across the United States, as well as the flexibility and strength of their ordering platform,’’ said Dmitry Polishchuk, CEO of Yandex Self-Driving Group, which also features lines of self-driving vehicles.

According to a survey done by Datassential and QSR (Quick Service Restaurant) Magazine, more than 60% of students utilize food delivery to off-campus sites and 40% order from on-campus establishments. But 80% are interested in more delivery options.

Bring on the robots. These 150-pound wheeled rovers can deliver food in any weather situation—in Russia that is almost essential—and operate similarly to other autonomous vehicles via last-mile logistics automation. After an order is placed and fulfilled, it is deployed to a pickup spot, where diners receive a push notification. The latch then opens up and meals can be lifted out.

Students in Michigan have already seen the rovers in and around Ann Arbor, where the University of Michigan is located. It might take a few months before the robot services are deployed at many college campuses but once they are, students will be able to pair their meal plans into Grubhub accounts and get their food deliveries both traditionally through its app and from the rovers.