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Reimagining Iconic Roadside Restaurants in a Healthier Context
ROBOTAXIS INVADE LA, CHEESESTEAKS TAKE FLIGHT
As America fell in love with the automobile in the 1920s and 30s, store owners found they had to work harder to grab the eye of someone motoring by at 55 miles per hour. A new form of design emerged - programmatic architecture - that featured novel structures often meant to evoke the product served inside. While these new buildings dotted the country from New Jersey to the Midwest, they found a most hospitable welcome in that era’s heart of motordom: Southern California.
In this week’s lighthearted update, let’s use AI art tools to reimagine some of these iconic buildings to fit a new era: serving healthier products via more multimodal means. To start, what if Randy’s Donuts, parodied the world over, served something a bit less processed? It’s possible Homer Simpson would no longer drop by, but the “Corn Kid” would probably pick up the slack.
West Hollywood’s iconic “Tail o the Pup” just reopened, but it’s still slinging hotdogs (although we’re sure the “vegan pup” is a new addition, $8.75 can’t be healthy for wallets.) What if it instead were a programmatic salad bar? Maybe that’s too unlikely a dream, as OpenAI and RunwayML really struggled with this one - the second image suggests the computer is hungry for whipped cream…
What if instead of hot cups of joe, roadside restaurants the world over started to sell smoothies?
Moving from rethinking form to rethinking function, are computers powerful enough to imagine a Golden Arches where the average customer gets their order by bike, scooter, or delivery bot?
Here’s a note for our friends in the PDD / delivery bot space: it seems there’s still work to be done before these machines enter the public consciousness. Each AI art tool seemed to prefer drawing some sort of Lost in Space style humanoid, as opposed to the low-to-the-ground bots on the streets, suggesting there aren’t yet enough photos of these new delivery devices.
And last but not least, what if the famous (at least to Valley denizens) Cadillac strip mall gave way to a scooter tower?
HOT INDUSTRY NEWS & GOSSIP
Coming to a curb near you! In case you missed it, last week we sent out our save the dates for the next flagship Curbivore conference: 3/3/23. Hyper early bird tickets are now on sale for just $99, but even more importantly: we’ll be announcing our first round of big name Launch Partners in just a few weeks. Interested in joining them? Reach out.
Escape (to) LA: Waymo’s robotaxis just set a new destination: Los Angeles. After years of surveying the region’s roads, expect to see Alphabet’s white Jaguars picking up passengers in just a few more months. Meanwhile, competitor Cruise reveals how custom silicon is part of its GTM strategy.
Food fight! While ASAP seems to be the food delivery app making the biggest push into stadia, a new gladiator has entered the competitive arena: DoorDash just announced in-stadium ordering at Chase Center, home to the Golden State Warriors.
Fuel your car and your bod? San Diego-based ChargeNet is building out a network of level 3 chargers at locations already known for quick service: fast food restaurants. The startup just unveiled its partnership with 120 NorCal Taco Bell locations.
State capacity, state capacity, state capacity… It’s fun to pick on the SFMTA, but this is a nationwide crisis: we’ve eliminated our capacity to get things done, in lieu of endless “community outreach” meetings while the world burns. Case in point: San Francisco is spending seven years to remove parking spots that hinder accessibility by bus stops.
A new week, a new e-truck: Austin’s AYRO unveils the Vanish, a petite new electric truck. Technically a Low Speed Vehicle, don’t expect to see these cuties on a road with a speed limit above 35 MPH.
Cheesesteaks take flight! So far drone delivery has mostly been constrained to time-sensitive needs like medication. But I guess a soggy cheesesteak is almost as bad as expired insulin; Flytrex and Charleys Cheesesteaks have teamed up to send sammies skyward in the “First in Flight” state.
Coming soon to a drive-thru near you? McDonald’s is about to become the world’s biggest ghost kitchen, as they launch a new partnership to sell Krispy Kreme donuts, starting at select locations in Kentucky.
Wonder hits the gas: Over at Expedite, Kristen Hawley breaks down the latest developments at Wonder, the $3.5 billion startup that’s preparing entire meals in the back of a souped up van.
Is this anti-inflationary? Singapore may be one of the world’s most expensive cities, but its government sure sounds stingy. The Public Transport Council just announced transit vouchers meant to help impoverished riders, giving each a whopping $21. Germany’s feeling a bit more generous, offering citizens a €49 ticket good nearly nationwide (recall the country’s 9 Euro ticket over the summer.)
NYC tames delivery: The streets of the Big Apple aren’t just overrun with rats, there’s a delivery dilemma as well! Manhattan Borough President Mark Levine just revealed the latest plan to bring soothe the city’s package-related pain, including new curbside loading zones and increased use of e-cargo bikes.
But maybe not parking? Meanwhile, NYCDOT released a new payment app for street parking. But given that user reviews seem to be uniformly abhorrent, maybe a better option would be to abolish all on-street parking?
Consumers cut back: New data shows super-fast delivery spending falling in NYC.
Grubship: Grubhub has been on a partnership push as of late, and now the delivery network has added another PDD provider to its stable: welcome to the family, Starship.
Hydrogen explodes: Shell pulls the plug on its hydrogen filling stations in the UK. Maybe California and Toyota should stop vaporizing dollars on this endeavor as well?
Carshare SPAC! We love carsharing, but we abhor special purpose acquisition vehicles. So it’s with a bit of trepidation that we watch India’s Zoomcar work to go public via SPAC… how many stockholders will opt out pre-merger?
Whose house? Warehouse! Business Insider releases a multi-part investigation into the causes and consequences of the nationwide warehouse boom. Some of the specific examples are pretty fascinating (if not generalizable) - while we’re sure The Bronx was sad to lose this movie theater, some slices of land honestly look better suited for logistics purposes.
Word from the mountain… The UCLA Lake Arrowhead Symposium is where many of California’s transportation and land use experts convene annually to chart a path forward. While past years have oft been contentious, it sounds like this edition had some fruitful takeaways.
Joyride delivers: Toronto’s Joyride cut its teeth as a platform for micromobilty operators, followed by a marketplace for sourcing scooters and bikes. Now the company is launching Joyride Delivery, geared towards empowering delivery fleet operators.
Dollars and (common) sense: New data shows just how valuable it is to repurpose underutilized curb space. In Toronto, parking that would have once generated at most $3.7 million (CAD) in parking revenue instead supported $181 million in restaurant / retail spend over one summer.
A few good links: Lunchbox launches new ordering platform. Aääk - Sweden’s far right gov’t abolishes environmental ministry. DOT dashboard charts vision zero failures. And a comparison to international peers. A podcast on packaging. A webinar on SMART grants. Coworking also-ran Knotel bounces back. Would the Kroger-Albertsons merger mean more tech investments, or just job cuts? GoodbyeFresh - layoffs hit meal-kit leader. Mixed signals on VC fundraising environment. Paytronix debuts new order experience builder. NFT paywalls. Final report issued on the state of Somerville's curbs. Frevor is trucked. Instacuts. Chinese group buying continues to evolve. New Jersey wants more freeways? SDOT’s Greg Spotts, fresh from LA, vows to prioritize safer streets.
Until next week!
- Jonah Bliss & The Curbivore Crew