According to a report released by the IDC on Wednesday, the market size of business-use service robots in China reached $84 million in 2021, representing a year-on-year growth rate of 110.4%. Keenon, Pudu Robot, Csjbot, Orion Star and other manufacturers occupied a majority of the market share.
According to the report, in 2021, the business-use service robot market attracted much attention from capital investors. Many companies announced that they had obtained at least 100 million yuan ($14.89 million) in financing, reached round-C and round-D stages, and were preparing for an IPO. As for catering robots, Keenon received more than 1 billion yuan in a round D of financing, while PUDU received more than 100 million yuan in a round C+ of financing.
Major players in China’s commercial service robot market in the food service industry are emerging robotics companies. Keenon and Pudu were among those to have achieved earlier layout and highest financing levels. They grew rapidly in performance by virtue of their earlier entry into the market and vigorous market expansion. 2021 saw fewer new vendors or traditional major companies entering the food service delivery field.
The rental model, which requires less cash, is favored by more F&B companies under China’s pandemic situation and other considerations, and has become a more popular business model, with the rental model accounting for more than 60% of revenue of some vendors. However, the rapid expansion of teams and channels and the promotion of the leasing model have brought greater cash flow pressure to robotics vendors, most of whom are not yet profitable.
By the end of 2021, in key top and second-tier cities, chain brand restaurants, hot pot brands and other early market customers with high acceptance of service robots, the robot penetration rate was at a relatively high level and growth had slowed significantly. The broader market, such as in third- and fourth-tier cities, and with more traditional Chinese and Western brands and independent stores, has become more difficult to expand, posing greater challenges to refining product categories and improving operations.
As pandemic measures outside China are gradually released and factors emerge such as high labor costs, the demand for food service robots in overseas markets has increased significantly, and some manufacturers’ overseas market revenues have significantly surpassed the domestic market.