Delivery Heads Back to School
Uber Eats' secret chatbot revealed, FedEx tempers rates, charting boba sales
You've got your new textbooks, your cool new Jansport backpack, and you’ve learned how to adroitly dodge underfoot robots while paying for groceries with just your palm — sounds like a back to school routine as old as time! We’ve got more details on that, plus Uber’s secret new chat bot, FedEx’s new rate for shippers, and some delicious data on boba sales.
Delivery Gets Schooled
Uber Eats’ Hidden New Chatbot
Chart Time | Is It Time for Boba?
Under Pressure, FedEx Tempers Rate Increase
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AUTOMATION | Delivery Tech Heads to Campus
The race for college students’ stomachs (or more accurately, the dining points their parents paid for) is heating up, with a number of high-tech delivery innovations headed to universities, right as the kids start returning from summer break. Market-leader Starship recently hit 2,000 robots on 50 campuses, and just today added one more in Texas, while Cartken trumpeted completing 50,000 orders at University of Arizona alone. Not to be outdone, Kiwibot just deployed to University of Maine (go Bears!) and University of Southern Indiana, via Grubhub / Sodexo.
The Big Picture: Campuses have been a rare bright spot for Grubhub, where the 3PD has worked with all three of those aforementioned robotics companies, bringing their tech to campus while maintaining control of the all-important customer relationship. At schools like Temple University in Philly, Grubhub Campus is rolling out "Ultimate” self-service ordering kiosks, as 60% of students now eat at retail locations as opposed to traditional dining halls. At Loyola University Maryland, Grubhub is deploying Amazon’s Just Walk Out frictionless checkout tech to speed up purchasing. Other players to watch in the campus market include AiFi’s autonomous mini-markets (newly deployed to U. San Diego) and multi-brand “convenience corridors” (powered by food service giant and longtime Grubhub collaborator Sodexo.)
3PD | Uber Eats To Launch Chatbot
Code-dissecting sleuths have discovered that Uber is working to add a chatbot to its mobile ordering app. According to wording in the source code, when firing up the new feature, users will be greeted with the text “AI assistant was designed to help you find relevant restaurant dishes and more.” Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi previously hinted that the company was working on an AI-powered chatbot, without delving into specifics.
The Big Picture: Combined with yesterday’s news that DoorDash launched an AI-powered phone answering service, it seems artificial intelligence may be heating up again, after a few months of losing its luster. Instacart’s ChatGPT-powered recipe function didn’t exactly move the needle, and we haven’t heard much recently about DoorDash’s rumored DashAI. But with OpenAI rolling out an enterprise-grade version of its tech, perhaps AI and LLM usage will bounce back from falling usage rates.
CHART TIME | Boba’s Mid-Day Bubble
In the past decade or so, boba (or as some say, *shudder*, bubble tea) has taken the world by storm — as the Taiwanese milk tea + tapioca ball concoction outsells coffee in certain markets. Adding to its allure, while coffee sales peak in the morning and taper off, boba sells well in both the late morning and afternoon / early evening. For those of you that just can’t get enough chart time, Measureable AI has a whole breakdown of top boba brands, and delivery volume on Uber Eats vs Foodpanda.
LOGISTICS | FedEx Imposes Mild Rate Increase for 2024
FedEx announced the non-contractual rates on most of its U.S. services would increase by 5.9% in 2024, a slight cooling from a 6.9% rise in 2023, but still up compared to the ~4.9% increase seen in most recent years. While UPS hasn’t announced its rate increase yet, shippers will be watching to see if its recent labor pact will cause it to break from its tradition of matching FedEx’s raises. (Although UPS’ recent 12%+ consolidated operating margin suggests it can afford the new agreement without having to pass much on to businesses.)
The Big Picture: There are other reasons FedEx might be tempering its price increase, including competitive pressure from USPS, which has lowered its own rates in a bid to grab volume from its private competitors. Trackers also note that air cargo is down, truckload capacity remains oversupplied, and the LTL market is only getting more fragmented - suggesting continued downward pressure on shipping rates.
A Few Good Links
Japan eases PDD regulations, makes way for Cartken. Ex-Deliveroo and Uber leaders launch Markato to help ecommerce SMBs push in to Asia. Drizly data shows Lambrusco is this summer’s “it” wine. Krystal sells off select locations to franchisors, hope to reinvest into new locations. DJI moves in to drone delivery. Higher-end restaurants toy with membership programs. Dunkin’ faces first union drive in 12 years. Chipotle pays for labor violations. Knight-Swift execs take pay cuts. ShipEngine launches embedded shipping solution for platforms. High-end prepared meal delivery service Moveable Feast pushes in to D.C. Blue Apron fights off reported short squeeze.
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