From coffee to crackers, UW-Madison robots deliver to meet higher student demand

MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) -- This winter semester, more UW-Madison students are bundled up inside, counting on app-based delivery robots to feed their appetites.

A kitchen manager puts hot food into a delivery robot before send-off.

The maker Starship launched a fleet of thirty self-navigating campus food carriers in November. Since then, Peter Testory, the university’s director of dining, said orders have jumped more than 700 percent.

Testory said there’s also a correlation between bad winter weather and service use.

When the order comes in with a “ding,” dining staff prepare the food at a campus kitchen. Runners or, oftentimes, kitchen managers take the food to the delivery bots parked outside. Once runners close the lids, the bots are off, finding their ways to customers’ pinned locations.

Alexis Larson-Simon, a kitchen manager, said that delivery requests can range from a cup of coffee to a bag of crackers.

Neha Prasad, a first-year student, typically eats at dining halls. She said that delivery robots are not necessities but are nice to have, “to be a little lazier.”

Prasad also said there’s a “fun perk” of making the trip to a dining hall. “Since everyone's so busy with classes... Most of the times it's meals that you can go and hang out with (your friends).”

In November, Markus Zimmermann, Starship’s launch director, told NBC15 News the bots were designed to work in rain, cold temperatures and snow.