Feeling hungry? Kiwibots are at your service
Some like it hot; some like it cold. Some like it via Kiwibot as robotic rovers roll
Editor’s note: Under the Affinity core value of the UND LEADS Strategic Plan, UND pledges to “cultivate physical and online campus environments that are welcoming, safe, healthy and inclusive.” With that in mind, UND Today brings you this story about Kiwibots, UND Dining Services’ latest effort to fulfill the Plan’s pledge and cultivate a healthy and happy campus environment.
This story originally appeared in UND Today in August.
Those starry-eyed Kiwibots are back in town, and word on the street is they’re the best thing since sliced bread — even better if that bread comes in the form of a hot and juicy Chick-fil-A Deluxe with Waffle Potato Fries and delicious dipping sauce.
“It took a bunch of work to get their parking garage ready for them, and the contract piece took a little longer than anticipated, too,” UND Dining Services Director Orlynn Rosaasen said. “But we’re excited they’re finally here and ready to roll, just in time for the students getting back on campus.”
Rosaasen said the self-propelled AI robotic rovers actually started delivering food orders out of the Memorial Union’s five restaurants in a soft launch a few weeks ago, just in case any wrinkles needed to get ironed out.
And so far, so good.
“The biggest thing now from an operation standpoint is getting the staff used to looking at the tickets to notice when it’s a delivery order,” he said. “This is the first time we’ve done a delivery service on campus, so all of a sudden, our restaurant employees have to pay extra attention and be on the lookout for that third option, so a runner can take the food out to the rover.”
Customers of Chick-fil-A, Panda Express, Dakota Deli, University Ave Pizza and the 1883 Grill can continue to place their orders using the nearby kiosks in the Memorial Union or via the Grubhub app — now with the choice of pickup or delivery.
“Every time I see a student interact with a Kiwibot, their whole face lights up. And with adorable names like Judith and Patricia, they make it so much fun,” Gunderson said. “You can tell people are excited to see them, and now they can try them out. It’s so easy … just like ordering regular takeout. The only difference is you get a cute little robot showing up at your door.”
Convenience is key
The Kiwibots navigate by GPS and will deliver your food — hot or cold — in under 20 minutes. That guarantee also means the rovers will deliver to buildings only within roughly a 1-mile radius of the Memorial Union. Even so, if you’re way across 42nd Street and craving a slice of pizza, you’re not entirely out of luck. You still can mosey through the skywalks and grab your grub at the doors of Clifford Hall. Then, it’s as simple as punching a code to open the lid.
For starters, the delivery service operates from 11 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. seven days a week, and Rosaasen estimates the 20 rovers can make about 100 deliveries during the peak lunch hour from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.
Meanwhile, a team of three Kiwibot employees is responsible for the rover maintenance and getting them to work on time each morning and charging them up again at night.
Rosaasen says he hopes to eventually add delivery service out of the Wilkerson Dining Center, but that wouldn’t happen until after a retail pricing system could be worked out and only after determining if traffic at the Memorial Union made such an expansion feasible.
Students are able to use their meal plans or Dining Dollars to pay for their food, Rosaasen says, but they must use a personal debit or credit card to cover the delivery fee. As far as the $3 delivery charge, that goes straight to Kiwibot and Grubhub to share.
But Rosaasen said there’s also potential for UND to increase its own profits through additional food sales. And as business grows, more rovers can be added.
“Depending on how quickly we get up and running, we might see a 12 percent increase in sales,” he said. “If we could accomplish that, it would be great. That really is the ultimate goal.”
And Gunderson is doing her part to make that happen. She’s been working hard to ramp up promotions through social media, handouts and digital signage all across campus. UND-branded flags and stickers are on order, and plans also are underway to do a possible contest and some giveaways. (Can you believe they even have Halloween costumes?)
What about Starbucks?
We knew you’d ask, so we did, too. Rosaasen explained that the retail Starbucks location inside the Memorial Union uses its own proprietary point-of-sale system that cannot be synced with Grubhub.
However, he said he’s already working to make Starbucks coffee available for delivery through its food service division via Stomping Grounds in Wilkerson Commons.
“The best thing is, you don’t have to worry about parking,” Rosaasen said with a laugh.
TRY IT NOW: If you’re new to the Grubhub app, use the code NOMS to save $3 off your first order.
CHECK THIS OUT: You can learn more about how the Kiwibots work by reading this earlier story from UND Today.
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