Investors are joining a sizable funding round for Bear Robotics, whose robots serve food to restaurant patrons – gpgmail


There’s almost no end to the number of jobs that could be replaced altogether or in some part by smart machines, from radiologists to truck drivers to, gulp, journalists. You might be tempted to sob about it to your friendly restaurant server, but wait! It’s a robot, too!

So it may be if the 25-person, Redwood City, Ca.,-based startup, Bear Robotics, has its way. The two-year-old company makes “robots that help,” and specifically, they make robots that will deliver food to restaurant customers.

It’s a market that’s seemingly poised for disruption. As Bear says in its own literature about the company, it was founded to address the “increased pressure faced by the food service industry around wages, labor supply, and cost efficiencies.”

CEO John Ha, a former Intel research scientist turned longtime technical lead at Google who also opened, then closed, his own restaurant, witnessed the struggle firsthand. As the child (and grandchild) of restaurateurs, this editor can also attest that owning and operating restaurants is a tricky proposition, given the expenses and — even more plaguing oftentimes — the turnover that goes with it.

Investors are apparently on board with the idea, too. According to a new SEC filing, Bear has so far locked down at least $10.2 million from a dozen investors on its way to closing a $35.8 million round. That’s not a huge sum for many startups today, but it’s notable for a food service robot startup, one whose first model, “Penny,” spins around R2D2-like, gliding between the kitchen and dining tables with customers’ food as it is prepared.

At least, this is what will theoretically happen once Bear begins lining up restaurants that will pay the company via a monthly subscription that includes the robot, setup and mapping of the restaurant (so Penny doesn’t collide into things), along with technical support.

In the meantime, Bear’s backers, which the startup has yet to reveal, may be taking a cue in part from Alibaba, which last year opened a highly automated restaurant in Shanghai where small robots slide down tracks to deliver patrons’ meals.

They may also be looking at the bigger picture, wherein everything inside restaurants is getting automated — from robotic chefs that fry up ingredients to table-mounted self-pay tablets — with servers one of the last pieces of the puzzle to be addressed.

That doesn’t meant Bear or other like-minded startups will take off any time soon in restaurants that aren’t offering a futuristic experience. One of the reasons that people have always headed to restaurants is for good-old human interaction. In fact, with take-out ordering on the rise, people — waiters, bartenders, restaurant owners who flit around the dining room to say hello — may prove one of the only reasons that customers show up at all.


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Domino’s launches e-bike delivery to compete with UberEats, DoorDash – gpgmail


Domino’s will start using custom electric bikes for pizza delivery through a partnership with Rad Power Bikes, as it aims to become more competitive with on-demand apps like DoorDash, GrubHub and UberEats.

Hundreds of e-bikes will be deployed across corporate-owned stores later this year in Baltimore, Houston, Miami and Salt Lake City, the company said Tuesday.

The e-bike announcement comes as Domino’s, which specializes in pizza, faces increasing competition from on-demand delivery apps like UberEats that offer customers far more choice. Domino’s could never offer enough menu options to compete with DoorDash or UberEats, but it can compete on service and delivery times.

The e-bikes are part of that plan. The company has also partnered with companies like Ford to test pizza delivery using autonomous vehicles. Earlier this summer, it launched a new pilot for self-driving pizza delivery in Houston in partnership with Nuro. Domino’s will use Nuro’s R2 vehicle, its second-generation autonomous electric test car, which will go into service later this year.

The e-bikes supplied by Rad Power Bikes are equipped with small integrated motors to assist with pedaling, and can run for 25 to 40 miles, depending on the user, before needing a recharge, according to the company. The bikes are equipped with lights in the front and back, reflective materials for driver safety and have a top assisted speed of 20 miles per hour.

Importantly, the e-bikes have been customized to hold pizza, drinks and sides. One e-bike can hold up to 12 large pizzas.

The company tested the e-bikes and discovered that service and delivery times improved, Tom Curtis, Domino’s executive vice president of corporate operations, said in the announcement. The e-bikes also opened up the labor pool for the company, allowing it to tap into candidates who might not have a car or driver’s license.

Some franchisee owners were already using e-bikes and found they are essential in hilly urban areas.

“While delivery on a traditional bike solved many of our traffic and parking issues, the hills in Seattle were tough on even our best cyclists,” Greg Keller, Seattle Domino’s franchisee said in a press release announcing the e-bike program. “E-bikes were a game-changer for us, and we’ve been delivering with them for three years now. We have been able to save money, provide better service, increase hiring and maintain a happy workforce.”


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