KFC Australia makes its drone delivery debut

CMO says the pilot of drone food delivery was prompted by dramatic changes to consumer behaviours during the pandemic

KFC Australia has teamed up with drone service provider, Wing, to pilot a delivery service of both hot and fresh menu items in Australia.  

The QSR’s chief marketing officer, Kristi Woolrych, told CMO drastic changes to customers’ buying behaviours brought about by the pandemic, and in particular, the heightened importance of convenience in positive experiences, had been a catalyst for getting into drone delivery.  

“Drone delivery is an amazing technology and something we see becoming more accessible in the future, so we’re thrilled to have partnered with Wing,” she said. “It’s an interesting space to be in, and we’re excited to see what lies ahead.”  

The Australian-first pilot drone service by KFC run is kicking off across homes and workplaces across the South East Queensland suburbs of Kingston, Logan Central, Slacks Creek, Underwood and Woodridge. The intention is for the service to gradually expand to include other nearby locations.  

“We’re looking to target customers that want convenience and the capabilities of this service truly showcase the future of delivery,” Woolrych said. “We’ve seen customers receive their food at their homes in mere minutes from placing their order via the Wing app, which is amazing. Getting up off the couch to whip up a snack could take longer. Significantly less than traditional delivery.”

In order to launch the service, KFC also partnered with its largest franchise partner, Collins Foods, on its first cloud kitchen to freshly prepare its chicken items ready for drone delivery. The purpose-built kitchen follows normal protocols but is optimised to the drone despatch, and has been designed without customer serving areas, seating or drive thru.  

“There were very specific requirements needed to set this kitchen up and being the first one in the country, there wasn’t a blueprint to work off,” Woolrich commented. “While the cloud kitchen set-up was a success and will service the Wing trial in Queensland perfectly, we’re still looking at what drone delivery looks like in the future and if specialised kitchens will be needed.”  

Outside of this, however, KFC already had the technology capabilities required thanks to its existing delivery offering. Customers download the Wing delivery app from the App Store or Google Play, enter their address, and submit their order.  

Overall, 46 per cent of KFC restaurants globally currently offer more traditional delivery options.  

Collins Foods CEO and MD, Drew O’Malley, agreed drones fit hand in glove with its digital and delivery strategy, which represents 16 per cent of sales and is continuing to rise.  

“This is supported by our Collins’ value of Innovation Mindset.  We see it as a huge driver for the brand and the category,” he said.  

“More than anything else, it’s a convenience factor. Yes, some people may enjoy the novelty of a drone delivery the first few times, but in the end it’s all about cooking excellent quality food using local ingredients in the kitchen and getting it to the customer as quickly and efficiently as possible.”  

As to measuring success, Woolrych said the immediate focus is on perfecting the service with Wing. This involves fine-tuning how orders are received, how the kitchen is run and ensuring meals are delivered fresh and in record time.

“In the long run, we will look at expanding the service to new locations,” she said.  

O’Malley said early signs are that it has reduced end-to-end delivery times by more than half, offering fresher food more conveniently.   

“We already knew that chicken has good advantages over many other types of food when it comes to delivery, but this initial trial run has even exceeded my expectations,” he said.  

Having seen drone technology and the regulations around their use in urban areas come a long way in a few years, O’Malley was confident of its future.    

“We think the technology will only improve from here -- increased carrying capacity, longer battery life and hence larger delivery areas, and more restaurants which can accommodate these,” he added. “While this is a novelty now, in five to ten years’ time you’ll not think twice about it – just like we do now with ApplePay, tap’n’go or contactless delivery, which a few years ago didn’t exist."

Wing is a subsidiary of Alphabet and is already delivering a range of hot food items along with barista made coffee across the country, successfully landing more than 100,000 deliveries to the Logan community in 2021. The list of its other partners includes Friendly Grocer Crestmead and Burgers from Rege's Hot Box in Logan, along with Burger Villains, Kickstart Expresso, Build Your Own Brekkie and A La Bonne Crepe all based in Canberra.

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