A Robot Delivered My Lunch

Author: Notre Dame Magazine

Mc 12 Photo by Matt Cashore ’94

The latest additions to Notre Dame sidewalks rolled out this winter: Short, white, rectangular vehicles gliding between campus restaurants and hungry customers. The food delivery robots have arrived.

The University, in partnership with Starship Technologies and Grubhub, debuted the vehicles in February. Each robot has six wheels and a tall orange flag. The initial fleet comprises 32 on-demand bots capable of delivering orders from six campus restaurants. 

Students and employees can use the Grubhub app to purchase food and drinks to be delivered to most campus locations within minutes for a $3.49 fee. After ordering, the customer may watch the robot’s progress via a map on the app.

Notre Dame expects to have 50 robots this spring and increase the number of participating restaurants. The service works with students’ meal plans, which include Domer Dollars for some meals at campus eateries. The University does not plan to expand the service to the dining halls.

“Feedback on the robots has been very good so far. The students are bonding with them,” says Luigi Alberganti, executive director of Campus Dining. Robot service has been under consideration for about three years, he says.

Once the robot arrives, the customer receives an alert to meet and unlock it through the app. The robots travel in all weather. And unlike e-scooter operators, when a food-delivery bot gets too close to a pedestrian, it halts and waits until the person is out of its path.

Notre Dame restaurants have never delivered, so the robots haven’t displaced any humans. In fact, the University has hired new employees to track and maintain the machines.

The robots talk, too. After a customer removes an order from the compartment and closes the robot’s lid, it says: “Go Irish!” Then it rolls off to its next delivery.