Airports of the future: Your first-hand look at robot mobile food ordering and gate delivery

Sep 18, 2021

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As travelers return to airports, airports are expanding their offerings of amenities that help make the terminal experience safe and stress-free.

Topping the list of welcome and much-used new services are mobile food ordering programs that offer contactless ordering, payment, pick-up, or delivery.

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With the roll-out of OrderSEA, Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA) is the latest airport to offer mobile food ordering with the option of airport-wide gate delivery. Runners from At Your Gate pick up the food and make the deliveries, sometimes with the aid of Gita, a two-wheeled cargo-carrying robot created by Piaggio Fast Forward, a Boston-area startup that is a subsidiary of Piaggio, the manufacturer of Vespa scooters.

As it is at most other airports offering this service, OrderSEA is powered by Servy’s Grab Airport Marketplace technology in partnership with AtYourGate. Travelers can place orders via the airport’s FLYSEA app, through OrderSEA.org, or through the AtYourGate or Grab apps. Right now, menus from sixteen airport restaurants are available, with more on the way. Travelers use their phones to peruse the menus, make and pay for their orders, and then choose pick-up or delivery to a gate or another post-security spot in the terminal.

In addition to saving time and being convenient, the service means that passengers can pay attention to social distancing by avoiding or spending less time standing in lines. Customers who  choose delivery stay put while one of the AtYourGate team member picks up and delivers the meal – sometimes accompanied by the OrderSEA Gita robot. (Delivery fee: $2.99, with or without the robot).

The robot, whose brand name is Gita, is partly a promotional tool to help generate excitement and draw attention to the delivery service, says Greg Udchitz, vice-president of marketing at Servy, “But it also creates another layer of contactless experience in this period of COVID. For some deliveries the robot carries the food and follows the delivery person. Then the customer can open the bin and get their order out of the Gita.”

GIta robot at the Seattle airport. Photo courtesy of Harriet Baskas.

You can’t request the robot, “It’s just a special treat,” says Udchitz.

SEA did a soft rollout of the OrderSEA program over the summer and out of the 1,200 orders placed, 500 were for gate delivery.

Mobile ordering at other airports

At Your Gate has a robot on duty at seven airports: JFK, PHL, MSP, SAN, SLC, SEA, and LAX.

The generic name of the robot is Gita, but so far two airports have ‘adopted’ the robots and named them.

Philadelphia International Airport (PHL) had a social media contest to name its robot and chose “Jawnbot” as the winner over runners-up PhiL, Jeet, and Betsy. For the LAX robot, which helps with deliveries in the LAX Order Now mobile food ordering program, Los Angeles World Airports (LAWA) purchased the Gita robot and named it NomNom.

No word yet on if SEA is going to name its Gita robot.

In different configurations and under different partnership and branding, travelers will find mobile food ordering options in close to 20 airports.

Most recently, Servy’s Grab Airport Marketplace and At Your Gate partnered with Fraport USA to roll out GateWaiter mobile meal delivery service at Baltimore/Washington International Airport (BWI) and Cleveland Hopkins International Airport (CLE).

At BWI, travelers may make an order by scanning a QR code or via BWIGateWaiter.com.

“Passengers can have sweet Maryland crab cakes or tangy tacos delivered to their gate with a simple scan of a QR code on their smartphone. It doesn’t get much easier,” said Gary Gilliard, vice president of Fraport Maryland, in a statement.

At CLE, ordering is available via QR codes or through CLEGateWaiter.com.

The full list of where At Your Gate is operating gate delivery programs includes SAN, EWR, JFK, LGA, MSP, PDX, SEA, BOS, DEN, PHL, MDW, DFW, TPA, LAX, SEA, CLE, SLC, and BWI. The Mineta San Jose International Airport the At Your Gate program is on hold due to the pandemic, but the company expects to add at mobile food delivery in at least eight more airports by the end of the year.

Just in time for holiday travel.

Photos courtesy of the author.

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