Attack on pizza making robots

Attack on pizza making robots

Artificial intelligence is taking the pizza business by storm, with a group of startups offering machines that produce pies faster and cheaper than humans.

why does it matter: While robots are making steady advances in the restaurant industry in general — flipping burgers, frying chips, brewing coffee — pizza is where automation might make its first and most transformative sign.

News Leadership: Some of the brightest minds in engineering have turned their attention to pizza, building things that can stretch dough, apply tomato sauce, and sprinkle cheese and toppings without human intervention.

  • Stellar Pizzafounded by a former SpaceX rocket scientist, will open this month in Los Angeles with a fleet of trucks staffed by robotic pizza chefs (and human drivers).
  • HQ Pizza In New Jersey it has transformed a traditional pizzeria into an automated restaurant, with plans to expand.
  • picnic business is a technology company that hires “Picnic Pizza Station”, a modular assembly line that can produce up to 100 pizzas per hour under the supervision of a single human worker.

what are they saying: “Nobody in the food service has enough workers,” says Clayton Wood, CEO of Picnic Works, whose machines have been used by Domino’s, SeaWorld and Chartwells, the school cafeteria vendor.

  • Another problem that robots solve? Consistency. “We make better pizza because it’s made according to the recipe,” Wood tells Axios. “It turns out that this is actually the number one concern of pizza operators.”
  • Wood said cheese is “the most expensive ingredient in pizza” as well as “the most expensive,” with workers typically slapping 40% more than necessary — wasting money and peeking at the pies.
  • Plus, “If you think about someone putting 64 slices of pepperoni on a pizza, our system can do that very easily,” he said.
A robot assembles pies at PizzaHQ, which uses a machine from Picnic Works. Photo courtesy of PizzaHQ

Get robots to make pizza Harder than it seems. Frozen pizzas are routinely assembled in the factory, but the process doesn’t easily translate to a restaurant or food truck.

  • “I have a team of 30 engineers at SpaceX designing the machines, which is really challenging,” Benson Tsai, co-founder and CEO of Stellar Pizza, told Axios.
  • His company’s machines take preformed balls of dough, stretch them, and add sauce, cheese and toppings.
Two pizza making robots from different manufacturers.
Left, Stellar Pizza’s robotic pizza maker, designed to be put into a truck. Right, an assembly line from Picnic Works aims to get the pie ready for the oven. Photos courtesy of Stellar Pizza and Picnic Works

Between the lines: While some manual labor may be lost when robotic hands replace physical hands, there are plenty of advantages – such as the ability to mass-produce at low prices.

  • Stiller plans to sell 12-inch pies for about $10 — initially to hungry college students, and eventually will park his car in low-income neighborhoods to tackle the “food desert” problem, Tsai says.
  • “We can actually make fresh pizza because we’re trying to shrink these giant pizza factories into little boxes,” he said. “We’re not trying to be fancy Neapolitan—we’re just a solid pizza choice here in Los Angeles.”

PizzaHQ, who makes a 16-inch pie For $9.99, it targets retail and institutional markets in Northern New Jersey.

  • “If you’re having a party and need 13 pizzas in your house, we can get them fast,” said co-founder Jason Odriga.
  • “We also enter into contracts with party venues such as trampoline parks and daycares.”

A factor of “excitement and entertainment” – It’s fun to watch the robots collect pizza, so some operators are playing with that.

  • At PizzaHQ, “We have a TV broadcasting the robot, and all day long we bring people back there and do the rounds,” Udrija said.
  • Picnic Works suggests that placing a robotic pizza maker in the arena of a sports stadium or event venue could be a crowd-pleaser.

Yes, but: There was already one noteworthy failure: Zume Pizza, which raised $375 million from SoftBank, shut down its machine-made pie service in 2020 amid “complaints about cheese dripping everywhere.” [and] frivolous little sauce on pancakes,” for every Input journal.

  • And the options for extras are limited when the robot wears the apron. Aside from the pepperoni, “it should be granulated, three-eighths of an inch, crumbled or diced,” said Odriga, whose company rents its machines from Picnic Works.
  • “When you look at things like broccoli, it’s hard to put them there,” he said. “If you look at the olives – the olives are very moist, and they are hard. It doesn’t work well with the machine.”

Bottom line: While robot-made pies may one day be the standard, they are likely to encounter consumer skepticism for the time being.

  • “One of the speed bumps will be getting people used to robot pizzas,” Odriga said. “There’s a lot of pressure on, ‘Hey, this product can’t be good.'” “
  • But he predicts: “20 years from now, all pizzas will be made like this.”

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