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Brief Published: 10 Dec 2020

KFC Invests in Contactless Delivery Vehicles in China

Extra
KFC

The rise of autonomous delivery vehicles in China that we noted in February isn’t abating. US fast-food group Yum Brands partnered with Chinese self-driving car company Neolix to offer contactless delivery for its KFC and Pizza Hut brands. The move underlines the long-term effects of pandemic habits, and even has global relevance.

During China’s Covid-19 lockdown, Neolix vehicles supplied groceries, food deliveries and PPE to communities across the country. Now, it seems food service could become its enduring industry. KFC has invested in branded versions that use 5G to navigate roads with Level 4 autonomous driving technology. The vehicles are completely unmanned and have been spotted outside metro stations in Shanghai. Customers place their order via a touchscreen menu, then scan a QR to pay. All items are kept warm inside heating cases contained in the car.

While experts say the risk of Covid-19 transmission via infected surfaces is relatively low, KFC’s investment in socially distant points of sale suggests that consumers’ embrace of touchless technology is unlikely to abate soon. We’re seeing a similar uptick in the US: contactless restaurant concept Brooklyn Dumpling Shop recently signed a deal with US franchise-development company Fransmart to open 500 of its branded automats across the country. And fast-food drive-thrus are nudging consumers towards low-touch ordering and pick-up methods.

As the technology and acceptance for driverless machinery develops, it’s likely we’ll see similar autonomous delivery vehicles appear in other countries. Conditioned by the desire for hands-off service, consumers will turn to these low-touch venues as safe options for grab-and-go foodstuffs. 

For more on the pandemic’s legacy for the hospitality industry, see The Future Restaurant.

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