Wendy's Underground Food Delivery

The Lempert Report
May 24, 2023

Here's technology that I just don't get, and Sally, maybe you can help me figure this one out. But Wendy's is piloting underground robots to deliver food to cars. It happens in seconds. They're partnering with PipeDream and what I don't really understand, and I don't think that this is that complicated or that much faster than a drive-through, you still have to pull up to Wendy's. They have these automated things that look like they're in a bank teller that bring your food up to your car and you have to order on your phone to get delivered. Is that gonna be that much faster? I don't get it. 

Sally: Well, I'm not sure how this is saving these companies money. I don't have numbers on that to compare that to to what it costs to have humans deliver food to these cars, like in the way that Sonic does. How we have someone bring the food out to our car, which I think is wonderful. But what we do know is there have been studies, in fact, there was one published in 2022 just last year by Big Red Rooster that said that 75% of customers still believe interaction with a human is a critical component of going to a restaurant. So I wonder if people will want to get their food that way. What if you get it and you know there's a problem or you need something else, do you have to pick up your phone and type that back into your app? And that that seems kind of cumbersome rather than just asking someone, can I have some ketchup, please? 

Phil: Yeah. I forgot the name of the restaurant, but there was a restaurant, I want to say about 10 years ago that was started in Southern California. I actually went to visit it, we did a story on it, it's somewhere in our archives, that basically the restaurant was above ground. People parked underneath the restaurant and they ordered not with their cell phones at that point, but with a little box and it was delivered down to the cars. They went bankrupt in probably about a year. So I don't think that this is a solution and it's not necessary. It really isn't necessary. The drive-through, sure, there might be two cars in front of you, but it's very efficient. And what we're seeing with a lot of McDonald's and Dunkin Donuts is they're now building where there's two or three drive-throughs at the same time so that you can get your order. But this to me sounds like technology looking for a solution for a problem that doesn't exist