Restaurant Roundup: DoorDash Woos Gen Z; Panera Bread Leverages Automation

DoorDash, food commerce, CPG

DoorDash is making a play to secure the loyalty of young consumers early. The delivery aggregator announced Monday (April 11) the launch of DashPass for Students, a lower-cost version of its membership program created for college students.

With the program, students can, for a flat monthly rate, get free delivery on eligible orders and receive certain discounts and credits.

“Access to convenient, fast and affordable ways to get everything you need is key for busy students on the go,” Kofi Amoo-Gottfried, chief marketing officer at DoorDash, said in a statement. “With the launch of DashPass for Students, we’re excited to change the game for students with a plan that’s designed specifically for them and provides access to everything from late night study snacks and grocery items to school supplies and dorm essentials.”

Generation Z consumers are significantly more likely than the overall population to order from aggregators, but they lag behind millennials in adoption, according to data from PYMNTS’ October study “The Digital Divide, Aggregators: The Cost of Convenience,” created in collaboration with Paytronix.

Read the report: The Cost of Convenience

The study, which drew from a survey more than 2,200 U.S. adults about their food ordering behavior, found that Gen Zers were 41% more likely than the average consumer to have used an aggregator to purchase from their favorite restaurants in the prior three months, but they were 12% less likely than millennials. Additionally, the study found that 57% of Gen Zers had done so in the prior 15 months.

Panera Bread Implements Robotic Coffee Monitoring

As restaurants continue to struggle with a difficult labor market, many are implementing robotic solutions wherever possible. Foodservice industry Robots-as-a-Service company Miso Robotics announced Tuesday (April 12) that bakery-café chain Panera Bread is testing out its CookRight Coffee system to monitor its coffee.

“Panera has a long history of tech innovation in service of meeting the needs of our guests and associates when they walk through our doors each day,” George Hanson, senior vice president and chief digital officer of Panera, said in a statement. “CookRight Coffee is a gamechanger when it comes to convenience and operational efficiency, and we are extremely excited to take our coffee station into the future with Miso Robotics.”

The system is meant to reduce the time it would typically take a person to manually check coffee volume and temperature.

Miso’s innovation strategy is centered on automating the processes that could be made more efficient in the near term. In a February in interview with PYMNTS, Jake Brewer, the company’s chief strategy officer, cautioned that the rush to develop new automated systems could come at the cost of making the best use of existing technologies.

“It’s the old adage: One in the hand is worth two in the bush,” he said. “You could always be chasing … those two birds in the bush and never actually get them … A lot of these brands, Miso included, have several products in hand that we know work and we know solve a big problem in the industry … [Some] people are chasing that next big innovation for forever, and they never actually get their first thing off the ground.”

Read more: Robotics Could Integrate With Restaurants’ Digital Systems Within a Year

Restaurant Wholesaler Ordering Platform Announces $111M Series B2 Fundraise

Choco, a company that creates mobile and web systems meant to simplify restaurant-supplier transactions, announced Tuesday that it has raised $111 million in a Series B2 funding round half a year after the company’s $100 million Series B haul.

This round brings its valuation to $1.2 billion. As the industry faces major supply chain challenges, the company touts its ability to provide much-needed up-to-date information.

“Wholesalers want to prepare for the digital age and need intuitive software for ordering, finance and logistics that will enable them to remain competitive over the next 5 years,” Choco CEO Daniel Khachab said in a statement. “This demand is evidenced by the traction Choco’s software and services have received with their ability to increase profit margins and supply chain visibility through those vectors.”

In the fall of 2019, the company raised $33.5 million in its Series A round.

See more: Choco Gets $33.5M to Streamline Restaurants’ Supply Orders

Nathan’s Famous Tests out Seat-Filling Tech Solution

With many restaurants facing staffing challenges, the disparities between busy hours and off hours can be even more pronounced than usual.

In a move to encourage consumers to visit at less popular times, quick-service restaurant (QSR) brand Nathan’s Famous announced Tuesday that it is pilot testing tech solution Let us Nudge, which enables restaurants to offer incentives such as targeted coupons to bring in consumers in slower periods, at 15 locations.

“We are excited to move forward with the pilot program with Let us Nudge,” Nathan’s Famous Vice President of Marketing Phil McCann said in a statement. “This program will not only incentivize our guests to visit our restaurants via targeted, ‘smart’ couponing, but importantly, we will gain valuable analytics on guest preferences.”