Autonomous Grocery Stores Coming to Campuses

Sodexo introduces Eat>NOW concept for digitally native Gen Z students
Lynn Petrak
Senior Editor
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Sodexo has developed new autonomous grocery stores for college campuses.

With Gen Z consumers having grown up in the omnichannel, foodservice and facilities management company Sodexo is adding autonomous grocery stores to U.S. campuses.  Beginning this spring, the company is rolling out different offerings for grab-and-go grocery purchases under the Eat>NOW banner, along with high-tech vending and virtual dining concepts.

The diverse, tech-powered solutions reflect the needs and expectations of younger consumers, according to Sodexo. “Students want three things: convenience, choice and quality – often in that order,” explained Kevin Rettle, global VP, Sodexo innovation and digital, universities. “Sodexo is in the business of helping our clients meet those needs head on, so we’re introducing campuses to the latest in innovative foodservice with Eat>NOW autonomous grocery stores, high-tech vending, partnering with the top brands that students are looking for, and delivering it to their doors.”

The first frictionless checkout-free grocery location will open at the University of Denver on April 6.

The autonomy grocery stores have been developed in tandem with AI platform AiFi.

"This partnership allows AiFi to bring our leading technology to campuses across the country with a proven leader in food services. With Sodexo, we can bring today’s students the ultimate convenience they’re looking for," remarked Steve Gu, CEO and co-founder of AiFi, which counts Aldi among its retail clients.

Also on deck is a new line of high-tech vending machines that feature more than 80 ramen and udon noodle bowl combinations. These kiosks are already in place at New Mexico State University and other campuses. Sodexo is rounding out its food solutions for pandemic-impacted, tech-native students with delivery-only offerings on its Bite app that include items from MrBeast Burger and Mariah’s Cookies.

Students who are part of the Gen Z demographic have shown an interest in physical store shopping with the assistance of technology. In a recent survey by the CM Group, 47% of Gen Z consumers born in 1997 and later said that they prefer to shop in a store versus online, more than any other generation, and 75% of them prefer to use their smartphone when they are in the e-commerce space, compared to 69% of Millennials.

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