Gonzaga welcomed students with open arms as they prepared for a fully on-campus school year. It’s nice to finally experience the normal hustle and bustle of campus life, people’s smiling faces and… mini robots?
On Sept. 21, Zag Dining announced it was partnering with Kiwibots to deliver delicious meals to students on-campus via robots.
The Sodexo Bite for Universities app allows GU students, faculty and visitors to order from a Sodexo-serviced location on campus. Users have the option of using Bulldog Bucks or a debit or credit card when purchasing from the app.
Kiwibot delivery is only available for HandCrafted, the sandwich shop inside the John J. Hemmingson Center, but Zag Dining aims to expand the services throughout this year to include other Sodexo locations, such as Starbucks and The Bulldog.
Morgan Mendes, a GU junior, said that although she hasn’t used the services herself, she thinks the bots are "super cute."
“There’s really no downside to Kiwibots,” Mendes said. “They do have potential to be really beneficial to campus.”
The semi-autonomous robots deliver food via a locker that can only be accessed by the recipient through the Sodexo Bite app. They are able to deliver within 20 to 35 minutes of ordering, depending on distance or dining rushes.
There is a delivery cost of $2, plus 10% of the order fee is tacked on, and the robots are sanitized between orders.
Madelyn Wilkins, a GU junior, found that these fees make the Kiwibots unappealing. She also noted that students can order ahead on Sodexo Bite, and picking up the food when its ready may be faster than the slow robots that roam campus.
“If you want Sodexo food that bad, just go to Hemmingson," Wilkins said. "You are on-campus if you’re ordering a Kiwibot, you’re not that far. It’s not helpful, and if anything it takes even longer than it would just to walk there and order the food [beforehand].”
However, the general consensus seems to be that adding COG dining to the services would be a massive win for Kiwibots. Mendes said that as a resident of Dussault, the trek across campus isn’t always convenient, especially when she is feeling ill or it's cold outside.
In these situations, she would normally just cave in and UberEats something to her dorm, but if the Kiwibots added a COG option, Mendes said she could definitely see herself utilizing their services and saving some money.
The robots were launched in 2017 in Colombia, and began expanding into the U.S. last year due to the demand for delivery services during the COVID-19 pandemic. They follow pre-programmed routes mapped across campus and are equipped with a camera, tracking devices, flags for visibility and sensors to activate the brakes if there are obstacles in their path.
The food is stored in its top compartment until it is delivered to its checkpoint. GU is one of three schools that have joined the program, alongside New Mexico State University and Loyola Marymount University.
“I am excited to be a part of bringing this program to Gonzaga,” said Suzie Mize, associate vice president of Auxiliary Enterprises at GU, in a news release at the Kiwibots official launch. “It is an opportunity to showcase partnerships in innovation, technology and food service.”