Sodexo, Inc. and Starship Technologies announced the launch of robot food delivery services at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia. Beginning Tuesday, George Mason’s 40,000 students, faculty and staff can access the Starship Deliveries app (iOS and Android) to order food and drinks to be delivered anywhere on campus, within minutes. Blaze Pizza, Starbucks and Dunkin’ are the first retailers to participate, with more to be announced in the coming weeks. Each on-demand delivery costs just $1.99.
With a fleet of more than 25 Starship robots at launch, this initiative is the largest implementation of autonomous robot food delivery services on a university campus and is the first of several technology-focused initiatives Sodexo is developing to enhance the campus food delivery service experience and meet the expectations of Gen Z students. Starship’s service works in conjunction with all student meal plans, as well as with Mason Money, the university’s debit program. By making food and drinks more accessible to George Mason University students and staff, Sodexo and Starship are aiming to make the hectic, on-the-go lives of students and faculty a little easier.
“Sodexo is committed to helping universities attract and retain students, while also anticipating the desires of future generations,” says Jim Jenkins, CEO of Universities East, Sodexo USA. “According to a 2017 study by the International Facilities Management Association (IFMA), more than four in 10 members of Gen Z say they like ordering through a third-party delivery site, and they don’t mind paying more to do so. Gen Z students expect mobile-friendly platforms, digital ordering and payment options, and a seamless, hassle-free experience. Our partnership with Starship is just one of many ways that Sodexo is working to improve the overall quality of life of the students and faculty living and working on the campuses of our university clients.”
“College students, and this generation in particular really understand technology and expect it to be part of their daily lives,” adds Ryan Tuohy, SVP, Business Development, Starship Technologies. “Students need goods and services delivered when and where it’s convenient for them and that is exactly what Starship does. As the leaders in autonomous delivery, we developed this technology with the goal of making life a little bit easier for our users, whether that means skipping long food lines or still finding time to eat when studying for exams. We look forward to seeing how it will enrich the daily lives of the students and educators on George Mason University as they build a generation of future leaders.”
Ordering is easy and done via the Starship Deliveries app. Users simply make their food and beverage selections, drop a pin at the location where they want their delivery and then watch the robot’s progress as it begins its autonomous journey to the chosen meeting point. When the robot arrives, the user receives an alert on their cellphone that allows them to press the unlock option in the app, so they can remove their items. They can then use the app to close and lock the robot and send it on its way. The entire process usually takes 15 minutes or less, depending on the menu items ordered and the distance the robot must travel. Each robot can carry up to 20 lbs., the equivalent of approximately three shopping bags of goods.
Starship Technologies is the world’s leading autonomous delivery service and operates commercially around the world on a daily basis. Its robots use sophisticated machine learning, AI and sensor fusion to create a situational awareness bubble that enables them to seamlessly travel on sidewalks and navigate around obstacles. The GPS and computer vision-based navigation use propriety technology to map locations and provide precision to the nearest inch. The robots can cross streets, climb curbs and operate in both rain and snow. In addition, the robots have PODs where their batteries are automatically switched so they can continue to operate, all with no human involvement.
Today’s students are tech-savvy digital natives and George Mason University continuously strives to implement innovative offerings that meet the expectations of this demographic and enhance the overall campus experience for the entire school community.
“We’re excited that our students get to be at the forefront of this pioneering campus food delivery service,” says Mark Kraner, executive director for Campus Retail Operations at George Mason University. “This will enhance life for everyone at the university, and that’s something we’re continuously looking to build upon. Our commitment to providing an optimal campus experience is one of the things that distinguishes George Mason University as a superior place for students of all backgrounds to live and learn.”