With the recent arrival of Kiwibots to ONU’s campus, change to student dining experience has never seemed more apparent. The food delivery service promises, above all other things, convenience. Indeed, convenience has become a driving consideration for many college students, and rightfully so; busy schedules often don’t allow room for a dedicated trip to get food. But is this convenience worth the tradeoffs? Routine food delivery can become very costly, and can be more restrictive than in-person ordering. In considering this, it seems appropriate to reflect on the up-and-coming industry of food delivery as a whole, and whether or not this truly represents progress for dining experience.
Arguably the most important consideration for this new service is price, even more so than convenience; most college students are (or at least should be) conscious of how they spend their money. And with Kiwibot, it can get complicated. When ordering from Northern Lights, Kiwibot charges fees of $2 per order, plus 10% of basket total, while the ghost kitchen “Mr Beast Burger” charges much less for delivery. While this may seem marginal at first, these costs can add up quickly for regular users. For example, the delivery fees associated with ordering two Caramel Frappuccinos would raise the cost of the order by 30.2%. For those who want to avoid fees, Kiwibot offers membership tiers for those who wish to pay in advance in exchange for lower rates. Below, please find a graph detailing Kiwibot’s three membership tiers.
These plans require a significant buy-in on the user’s end. While the plans are relatively evenly spaced in price and number of deliveries, there is very little change in total savings. This provides little incentive for users to engage with the more expensive tiers, outside of their own enthusiasm for Kiwibot delivery.
Aside from the financial considerations, Kiwibot’s accessibility may be less than students initially expect. Although a September 1 email sent to students identifies Kiwibots hours of delivery as 11AM-7PM, only Northern Lights is available for order the entire time. Mr. Beast Burger, Mariah’s Cookies and Cake Boss are only available from 11AM-3PM, while food from McIntosh is view only and WOW hasn’t been set up (at the time of publishing). The Northern Lights menu made available on the Everyday app is smaller than what is available in person, with some Frappuccino and Refresher options missing. In addition, the time it takes to complete an order should be taken into account. Kiwibots move slower than most pedestrians, and as ONU only has 15 Kiwibots at the time of publishing, delays might be expected. When considering this, it may make more sense for students to travel to a dining hall and order in person.
These concerns aren’t unique to ONU-rather, they are characteristic of several, if not most, food delivery services in operation across the nation. Their relative newness has given them some novelty and increased attention, but don’t let yourself get caught up in it. Even if food delivery services take over college campuses across the country, which it looks like they will, I encourage you to refrain from using them, or at least approach their offers with a healthy level of skepticism.