Restaurant Delivery Service Robots. Are they a threat to your business?

A 2023 guide to robot delivery service and drone technology—and whether you need to worry about it.

A year ago, we wrote this article about food delivery drones and what they mean for your restaurant delivery service (RDS). Given how fast technology changes these days, it’s time for another check-in. The question is: “Are food delivery robots a threat to my RDS?”

The answer is about the same: Not likely, save for a few exceptions.

Food delivery robots have officially hit the streets in several major cities, as well as college and university campuses. In some areas, the robots are quite successful.

However, food delivery robot technology still has considerable limitations:

  • Geography. delivery robots are great for urban areas with plentiful sidewalks and the contained environment of college campuses. But you’re not going to see one zipping down a highway or cruising around a suburban area. They’re simply not practical outside a few specific contexts.
  • Speed. Delivery robots are slow, taking up to 35 minutes to travel half a mile. There are several reasons for this. First, it’s not safe for them to go flying down a sidewalk above a certain speed. Second, they have to stop and wait at stoplights, just as pedestrians do. And while some pint-sized robots are speedy, delivery robots simply aren’t designed for haste. Given that many people want their deliveries ASAP, delivery robots struggle to complete in areas where a car or scooter would be faster.
  • Volume. One delivery driver told Eater he wasn’t worried about delivery robots, even though he does most of his deliveries in their ideal territory. ““There are so many deliveries to be made. You couldn’t have that many robots on the sidewalks,” he said. “I think it would be a problem.”
  • Accessibility, or the 100-foot problem. A robot can deliver food to an apartment lobby, but it can’t go straight to your door on the third floor. For many this is simply inconvenient. But for individuals who are elderly, disabled, immunocompromised, or otherwise housebound, it’s a true limitation. For folks who truly need their delivery brought all the way to their door, human delivery is a necessity.


While some cities are making delivery robots work in spite of these limitations, not all have embraced them. In 2021, Toronto banned food delivery robots, with very few exceptions. And they’re not welcome in New York, Beijing, or San Francisco.

So what does this mean for your RDS?

With a few exceptions, you don’t really need to worry about restaurant delivery service robots. If you operate in certain cities, you may lose business in the urban core if they embrace robots. And since food delivery robots are quite compatible with college campuses, they can become your competition there.

But, in most areas, food delivery robots are either totally impractical or outright banned. In other words, it’s worth being cognizant of food delivery robot adoption in your area. But there’s no need to worry about a total industry takeover.

What about food delivery drones?

Food delivery drones have even more practical hurdles to overcome than food delivery robots. In the United States, drones are subjected to countless limitations regarding range and altitude. For example, it’s generally illegal to fly a drone within five miles of an airport. This makes drone delivery impossible in huge swathes of major US cities, including Chicago and New York. And, like a robot, a drone can’t deliver a burger directly to the front door of your apartment. Practicality is a major barrier for delivery drones.

Of course, there are some exceptions. Food delivery drones are abundant in the Chinese city of Shenzhen and have become very popular. A small area in Durham, NC has also seen some success with delivery drones. Drone regulations could certainly change in the coming years.

In the meantime, however, it’s not something to lose sleep over. City infrastructure and drone technology both have a long way to go before delivery drones become competition.

You can watch the news about delivery robots and drones, but there’s little need to worry. Your RDS is better served by existing technology: excellent restaurant delivery software, like DataDreamers.

DataDreamers leverages AI and the hands-on expertise of experienced RDS professionals to bring you the best features in the business. From integrated pay to advanced automated routing, DataDreamers is designed to ensure smoother operations and happier customers. No drones are required.

To see DataDreamers in action, schedule a demo >