Domino's Pizza (DPZ -1.69%), the pizza restaurant described by management as "an e-commerce company that sells pizza," announced the rollout of robotic delivery services today. Testing of the new service will take place in Houston, Texas, specifically in the Woodland Heights neighborhood. The robots used are R2 autonomous delivery vehicles, produced by privately held California-based Nuro.
According to Monday morning's announcement, pizza-hungry diners in the Texas neighborhood can place a prepaid order which the R2 robot will then bring to their home. Text alerts track the machine's movements, and once it arrives, the customers can retrieve their food by entering a PIN on the R2's touchscreen.
Dennis Maloney, the same executive who described Domino's as an e-commerce company years ago, said in the statement the "growing demand for great-tasting pizza creates the need for more deliveries." He also noted the test of the Nuro R2 starting this week will enable the company to study "how customers respond to the deliveries, how they interact with the robot and how it affects store operations."
Domino's, like several other restaurant chains easily capable of switching to a delivery model, made significant gains during 2020's COVID-19 lockdowns, with its market share climbing to 37% compared to 29% five years ago. As companies struggle with mounting delivery costs and home food delivery demand skyrockets, Domino's may hope robotic couriers will help it control its expenses.
Another restaurant chain that strengthened its position during the pandemic, Chipotle Mexican Grill, also recently expressed interest in Nuro's R2. The Mexican-style fast-casual restaurant invested directly in Nuro several weeks ago as part of its effort to provide cutting-edge digitally powered service.