, Australia

Where drones now fit in a QSR’s delivery strategy, according to Wing

Head of policy and community affairs Jesse Suskin explains why the technology’s value proposition is becoming stronger for chains.

Long been touted as one of the next disruptors in last mile delivery, drones have been gradual in making its way across markets, even despite initial overestimations of the rate the technology would be implemented.

Wing, the drone delivery company operated by Google-parent Alphabet, believes the potential surrounding it presents a much more real opportunity for merchants today, QSRs included.

Their recent numbers speak for themselves. Earlier this month, it reached the 100,000 customer delivery mark with over 50,000 of those delivered to customers in Logan—now touted by the company as the drone delivery capital of the world—during the last eight months alone.

Residents in the local government area ordered almost 4,500 deliveries in the first seven days of August, equivalent to a drone delivery nearly once every 30 seconds during its service hours.   

“There's a lot of homes within Logan across the many suburbs [where] we deliver where they aren't walking distance from their local shopping center or their local coffee shop or the local grocery store,” Wing head of policy and community affairs Jesse Suskin told QSR Media.

“We have a lot of businesses, QSRs and across all the dozen businesses we deliver there that really like reaching their customers in this way. It's just a new form of last mile delivery that just doesn't exist.”

In the past year, Wing customers in Logan ordered more than 10,000 cups of barista-made coffee, over 1,000 loaves of bread delivered, more than 2,700 sushi rolls and over 1,200 roast chickens.

Now serving in 20 suburbs in Logan, Suskin believes success will come if they can replicate this model in cities that have “similar characteristics”: reaching people in the edge of a larger city or large groups of homes far from shops. (As of press time, its drone delivery service in Canberra was forced to temporarily shut down after its devices kept getting attacked by ravens guarding their nest.)

“I think that becomes a sweet spot for us and we're looking forward to pursuing that in the coming months and years in Australia,” he said.

Flexibility within last mile delivery journey
Despite being in a highly regulated space, Suskin remains firm in drones’ value, explaining the tech’s flexibility within the last mile delivery journey.

“What's unique about drone delivery is we are a piece of last mile delivery, but we don't have to be all of it. But there are those moments where using a car to move something five kilometers, whether it's food or hardware or coffee, that value proposition becomes tricky and difficult. But using a drone and an autonomous system to do that keeps the value proposition,” he said.

“Oftentimes, what this is replacing is the consumer getting in their car and making that trip themselves. And that's where that unique spot is.”

Suskin also reaffirmed the company’s plans to explore new delivery models, including “co-locating” their delivery service with businesses at their own premises. Currently, local businesses co-locate with them at their delivery facility.

The styrofoam drones—weighing 4.8kgs, have a wingspan of about 1.5 metres and can carry packages around 1.5kgs at speeds of over 110km/h—do not need a lot of infrastructure to be set up, he said.

“I think that will open up different opportunities for QSRs or any merchants doing anything in the near future.”

Cost savings of using drones
Suskin anticipates having between three and five new QSRs using their service by the end of the year. Whether they are chains or local concepts, Suskin cited one key attribute they are looking for in a merchant-partner: vision.

“We like merchants who are thinking about how they can best serve the community using a unique service like ours. We tend to like working with people who are willing to have that dialogue with us, help us improve, for us to be able to learn from them to be able to learn,” he explained.

“Sometimes, we do like items that wouldn't typically be delivered.”

The coming years will show, he added, that drones would become a viable, more affordable way to keep quality high. 

The value proposition not only will be in the cost savings of using drones for last mile delivery, but furthermore, the quality standards will remain very high,” he said.

“We have a long way to go in expansion but we're in Australia for the long [term.] We have many years of experience now operating in two different states and we look forward to continuing that for many more years moving forward and working with many different partners.”

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