University of Wisconsin Housing Dining & Culinary Services launched their robotic food delivery program at 11 a.m. today and had already delivered several orders by noon, Peter Testory, UW director of dining and culinary services for the housing division, said.
UW has access to a fleet of 30 robots, which were created by Starship Technologies and can carry up to 20 pounds of food. The robots will deliver to students and staff from three of UW’s dining halls — Carson’s Market, Four Lakes Market and Liz’s Market, according to a press release from UW.
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Testory said students simply download the app, place their order as they would from any other app, pay the $1.99 delivery fee and drop a pin for their pick up location. Dining hall staff are then alerted of the order and load the robots. Students can also track the location of their order as their food travels.
Testory said UW plans to extend the delivery routes to the rest of campus in the coming weeks, encompassing all of the dining halls. UW is the largest U.S. campus to use the robots, according to the press release.
When Starship presented their program to UW, Housing Dining & Culinary Services was interested right away, Testory said.
“Delivery is one of the fastest-growing segments of the food service industry. It’s something that our students have been requesting for a while,” Testory said.
The robots can carry deliveries within a four-mile radius and weigh no more than 100 pounds, according to the Starship website. The robots travel the speed of pedestrians, can navigate around objects and people and are electrically powered.
According to the Starship website, the robots have a cargo bay that is mechanically locked and can only be opened by the recipient with their smartphone app.
Testory said Starship has listened to community concerns and made necessary adjustments along the way. He also said that with the lack of staff in UW dining halls these robots fill an important need.
“We thought ‘wow, what a great way to partner with technology — and offer the services students are requesting — and be able to do it so they can be able to live their daily busy lives without having to stop and come into one of our marketplaces,’” Testory said.
Starship has already posted eight robot operator positions to facilitate the program, and Testory said UW will be posting a position later this week focused on managing orders.
Testory said he is looking forward to expanding the program and seeing how it develops.
“This is a very exciting day for campus, we’re looking forward to the future,” Testory said.
A video of the robots is available below: