One of the biggest restaurant industry headlines from the COVID-19 crisis has been the staggering growth of delivery. The channel was on an impressive growth path prior to the pandemic, but consumers forced to stay at home for months with sporadic dining-out opportunities have kicked delivery into hyperdrive.
Consider, for example, that Uber Eats reported a 103% year-over-year revenue increase during Q2, or that Grubhub executives called the pandemic a “permanent catalyst” for business as revenues jumped by 41%. According to Cardlytics, delivery spend was up 174.5% year-over-year the week of Aug. 6.
There are a lot of predictions flying around about what pandemic-induced trends will be sticky in the long term and delivery is likely a safe bet. That said, we’ll continue to see iterations of foodservice delivery, like driverless vehicles, drone transport or “mobile pizza factories.” We may also start to see some more scalable options, like Arcimoto’s new-ish three-wheel electric “Fun Utility Vehicles.” Arcimoto launched a pilot of the Deliverator FUV in March with an objective of providing last-mile food (and parcel) delivery.
Wahlburgers just started testing the Deliverator at its Key West, Florida, location. According to Jim Oboyski, Wahlburgers’ VP of Operations, the fast casual burger chain wanted to ensure customers receive their food as fast as possible while keeping emissions low.
The Deliverator, which is about a third the size of a standard sedan, was built specifically to do both.
“Building a more human-scale platform comes with significant advantages–its small size makes it very maneuverable and easy to park in dense, urban environments, it’s incredibly energy efficient and it will cost substantially less than a typical car at scale production,” said Arcimoto CEO and Founder Mark Frohnmayer. “The Deliverator leverages these advantages to solve the problem of local and last-mile delivery, which has traditionally been dominated by large, expensive, polluting delivery vehicles.”
He adds that the all-electric, zero-emission design can ultimately help restaurants save on costs because of a lower sticker price, lower operating costs and faster delivery times–all of which go directly to the bottom line.
“Additionally, there is a branding opportunity. The Deliverator is a roaming billboard,” Frohnmayer adds.
The timing certainly seems favorable for such a test. During the early days of the pandemic, Wahlburgers’ delivery business jumped to 25% of its sales, versus about 4% pre-pandemic. The company works with multiple delivery vendors, and added the Deliverator test to ensure it found a solution that works best for the business, Oboyski said.
“With restrictions on in-house dining and even outdoor seating in many areas, restaurants are facing unprecedented challenges,” he said. “We’ve seen deliveries increase exponentially during the pandemic across the restaurant industry. A sustainable and economic delivery vehicle is more important than ever.”
The Key West test began Aug. 28, so there aren’t many insights to glean from the partnership just yet. The companies are focusing on details like the configuration of the storage unit, ease of access and experience reports from the road. They will also look at a temperature-control option that can keep burgers hot and shakes cold.
Wahlburgers marks Arcimoto’s first foray into the restaurant space, but Frohnmayer said the pandemic has shifted the company’s attention from driving consumer adoption to meeting the increased demand from delivery fleets, including as a possible solution for big players in the food delivery space. The company plans to scale mass production and build a capacity rate of 50,000 units per year within two years.
“We look forward to feedback from Wahlburgers as part of this pilot and would love for the Deliverator to become a significant feature of their corporate fleet,” he said.