Mendocino Farms is one of the latest brands investing in the future of sky-high deliveries.
The LA-based, fast-casual chain has partnered with Zipline to deploy drones for delivery of sandwiches, salads and more from select locations, beginning in 2025.
San Francisco-based Zipline, a recognized leader in drone delivery services, develops fully autonomous drones that fly about 300 feet off the ground and deliver within a 10-mile radius.
Its latest model, the “P2 Zip” arrives at its destination, deploys a droid that moves down a tether, and steers to the correct location before gently dropping off a package. The drones can carry items up to eight pounds and be dropped in areas as small as a patio table or the front steps of a home.
In an email Q&A with Food On Demand, Riki Swindler, vice president of brand and marketing at Mendocino Farms, relayed that working with Zipline is intended to revolutionize their delivery and streamline off-premises services—which makes up 66 percent of the chain’s business, compared to 33 percent dine-in.
Emerging from the pandemic, Mendocino Farms’ dining landscape has vastly changed. “While dining in picked up post-pandemic, our off-premises business has exponentially grown,” said Swindler.
“We like to focus on the triangular restaurant experience, dine-in, pick-up and delivery, but we can’t ignore that dining rooms are becoming less busy as guests prioritize convenience. We want to meet them where they’re at, and our partnership with Zipline will help us accomplish this,” she said.
The technology also aims to solve issues regarding delivery such as “cold and late” orders.
To enable the service, select Mendocino Farm stores will add Zipline docks which allow team members to load orders directly into the droid without leaving their station.
Swindler says this requires “minimal training to ultimately create an efficient system that works seamlessly, even during our rush hours.”
Digitally, Mendocino Farms will utilize Zipline’s APIs to integrate the service into their existing ordering channels and POS systems, “enabling easy online ordering, as well as real-time order and trend tracking.”
Drones gain momentum
Mendocino Farms joins Pagliacci Pizza and Sweetgreen in working with Zipline for aerial deliveries.
Several other restaurants and retailers have been implementing and testing drone delivery with various companies in the U.S., such as Chili’s teaming with Flytrex, and Nektar Juice Bar piloting drones with Flyby—to name a few.
Drone delivery continues to gain momentum, however, experts say it’s still in its early stages when looking at delivery at-scale amid challenges such as costs and technological barriers.
However, according to a study by McKinsey & Company, drone deliveries worldwide in the restaurant industry increased by 195 percent from 2021 to 2022 and by 100 percent in the grocery and convenience industry.
The report also projects that overall drone delivery, including for retail and healthcare, will exceed the 1-million mark globally in 2023.
In addition, public opinion of drone deliveries has warmed. According to a McKinsey survey of over 4,600 consumers, 56 percent of respondents said they would opt for drone delivery if it was faster than the alternatives and did not cost more.