Delivery Drones for Restaurants – UAVs to revolutionize Take Out Deliveries?

Date: 03-10-2015

The logistics of delivery food to customers in their home have always represented a significant problem for Restaurant owners.  The costs are high and variable workloads makes it difficult to pre-plan staffing levels.  One solution to getting food into the homes of customers could be the introduction of Restaurant Delivery Drones.

Some Restaurants have already trialled Unmanned Aerial Vehicles for their deliveries, but the technology is still not quite there and there are legislative issues to be dealt with, but the technology is rapidly evolving, the costs are decreasing and the legislation will catch up to make Restaurant Delivery Drones a simpler way to deliver food for many Restaurants as well as opening up home delivery to many restaurants who have never tried it before.

Delivery Drone
As drones get cheaper and can carry larger loads, it is inevitable that drones will start delivery for Restaurant owners.

How much does Restaurant Deliveries Cost?

Talking to Pizza Restaurant owners, many don’t accurately track the costs associated with delivering meals to their customers.  The costs involved with running a delivery service are considerable.  There are the wage costs for the driver, the costs for running the vehicle, insurance, registration, replacement costs for meals that are cold by the time they arrival, costs associated with incorrect orders.

We looked at the pricing of delivery from Dominos Pizza in Australia, given that they probably have a very good idea of the costs associated with delivering a Pizza.  An Argentinian Pulled Beef pizza for Pick-up was $9.95.  To have it delivered was $18.95, an additional $9.   If an extra 9 pizzas were ordered, the price on the extra pizzas came down to 11.95, implying that the delivery charge is $9 for the first pizza and $2 for each pizza after that.

For delivery, Dominos offered a guaranteed delivery in under 20 minutes or a free pizza delivery for an additional $3.  This is either a price premium paid to go to the head of the queue or an insurance premium given the rate with which they miss the 20 minute deadline, or a combination of both.

Restaurant Home Delivery – Why Bother?

Given all of the added expense of delivery food to customers, why do many Restaurants, in particular Chinese and Indian Restaurants and of course, Pizzerias go to the effort of providing home delivery for their customers?  The benefits of Home Delivery mean that a Restaurant’s takings for a night aren’t limited to the number of table turns that can be achieved, there are less costs involved from front of house labour charges and most importantly, it drastically increases the target market for the Restaurant.  It covers people who don’t want to go out, people who can’t go out, people who want to drink without driving home, those who can’t find a babysitter, those who can’t cook your cuisine but want to eat and people who want to sit down and watch a movie at home without the hassle of cooking and cleaning up after the meal.  This is a dramatically larger potential market than those who are prepared to go out to a Restaurant and that is why so many

When will Restaurant Delivery Drones become a reality?

The obstacles to Restaurant delivery drones becoming commonplace for many restaurants are mainly technical and legal.  Drones need to be able to carry the required amount of weight and do it without a human controller to be cost effective.  In the United States, there is continued work to legislate the commercial use of drones.  Amazon has been the leader in the field with their Amazon Prime Air offering, planning to provide 30 minute deliveries and has been approved to conduct prototype testing.  It is aiming to be able to provide delivery for orders of less than five pounds (2.2 kg) and must fit within a cargo box.

Singapore’s Timbre Group has plans to trial drones within the restaurant, decreasing labour costs within the Restaurant.  Francesco’s Pizzeria in Mumbai has actually delivered pizza to a customer 1.5 km away.  Drones of course have the massive advantage of flying in a straight line as the crow flies and are unaffected by traffic jams.  This benefit in itself will dramatically increase the number of customers that each restaurant will be able to serve. In fact we think that this will be a major driving force in the adoption of UAVs for Restaurant Delivery as the advantage in radius will dramatically increase target markets for customers.  Dominos in the UK has also trialled UAVs, with the ‘Domicopter’ being developed in conjunction with AeroSight.  The proof of concept was completed in 2013 and capabilities have increased since then and price have decreased as well.

Video of the Francesco’s Pizzeria in Mumbai delivery to a customer.

Payloads for UAVs are dramatically increasing and within 2 years drones costing less than $2,000 will be able to carry the weight required to cover most home delivery orders.  Francesco’s custom drone cost around US $2,000, but does not have autonomous flight capability.  A lot of software work is being done with this to enable quicker and safer flight operations without human intervention.

One further problem that will need to be worked out is all weather capability.  Currently drones are limited to good weather, but as their size increases they will be able to fly in worse conditions including rain.  Many current drones are not designed to fly in adverse conditions.  The manual for the DJI Phantom 3 state no flying in severe weather conditions, including strong winds, snow, rain and smog.

Delivery Drone legislation

Public concerns that are slowing the introduction of legislation for the commercial use of delivery drones include privacy and safety.  There have been many incidences of people abusing drones with cameras to invade peoples privacy, and the risk of a drone falling out of the sky onto a busy Express Way also needs to be managed.  These are issues that bodies like the FAA are slowly working through and companies like Amazon are working to ensure that the commercial drone flights become commonplace.

When will my Pizza arrive by delivery drone?

With the right legislative approvals, widespread adoption of Restaurant Drone Deliveries could be less than 5 years away, with 1 person being able to control a fleet of drones that operate autonomously to fly to the customer.  Video feeds and links to mobile phones will assist in the actually delivery and will greatly decrease the cost of delivering food to customers, whilst decreasing wait times and increasing the number of customers that each restaurant can serve.

 

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