Wayne State’s new robotic delivery service, implemented on campus in September after a partnership with GrubHub and San Francisco-based Starship Technologies, has received varied reviews from members of the campus community throughout the fall semester.

The delivery service features small white robots, that can deliver food from any Student Center restaurant to any WSU residential building on campus.

Senior strategic partnership manager at GrubHub Travis Price told The South End in September WSU would be one of four universities across the country with the robotic delivery feature, and the only in Michigan.

“...we’re going to be focusing on this closed ecosystem and campus approach. For us, what we’re trying to do is we’re trying to enable accessibility and when we think about deliveries, one of the biggest difficulties that we run into in a campus setting, particularly with right of way…is getting delivery drivers and getting delivery food to students and guests, it’s kind of difficult,” Price said. 

Subway Lead manager Brenda Smith said the robots have made things harder.

“The robots are easy to use but difficult to maintain for the simple fact that they don’t have the option of selecting a different robot,” Smith said. “If I go to a robot and it’s dirty with waste, I have to grab a rag and clean it out when I only have two staff members and a line inside the store.”

Panda Express Lead Cook Jameka Stearns said the robots provide a faster experience for students and boost business.

“The Grubhub orders work fast for us. There are always staff here to help when the order is made and bring it out to the robot,” Stearns said.

Tenders Lover and Chicken employee Matthew Kribs said the restaurant has experienced a positive response to the delivery service.

“There aren’t too many orders, it is pretty lowkey and doesn’t take very long to grab the iPad and complete an order. The only issue we have is it is hard for us to know if the student received the order. I’ve heard it can be hard to find the robot once it’s delivered,” Kribs said.

WSU Dining Services Director Alex MacKenzie said she believes the robots have been effective on campus.

“The robots have been a great addition to retail success on campus. It's been a seamless transition and has given an additional solution for how students can order food on campus,” she said. 

MacKenzie said she believes the robots will continue through the winter semester to help students avoid the cold.

“The students and faculty are excited to engage with the robots. We have been offering raffles and giveaways for anyone that orders through the Grubhub app for delivery. We hope to grow this service for the winter (20)22 semester since students will rely on these robots to avoid the bitter cold,”  MacKenzie said.

MacKenize said students can now order from “The Drop,” a new virtual dining concept including Jack’s Burrito, Tenders Love and Chicken, and Burgers + Fries.

MacKenzie said the robots will have no issue completing deliveries in the winter. 

“The robots can operate in snow or rain. They have special tires that will withstand harsher weather conditions,” she said. 

Freshman Chatsworth resident Leah Blazoff said she enjoys using the robots mostly because they are convenient and fun.

“I feel like the process of ordering is pretty simple, but sometimes I’ll place an order and it’ll get canceled, which is kind of annoying, but I get my money back or Warrior dollars back so it’s not a big deal,” Blazoff said.

Blazoff said she feels the app service takes longer than expected. 

“Sometimes when my robot is delivered, the app takes a long time to get to the button that unlocks the food,” Blazoff said. “Overall, I’d recommend the service to other students because it’s convenient and fun. I love watching the robots wheel up to the front of my building.”

Daylyn Huff is a contributing writer for The South End. She can be reached at daylyn.huff@wayne.edu.

Cover photo by Daylyn Huff.