2022 will be the year of the pizza maker

A robot-powered mobile pizzeria is slated to launch in Los Angeles in 2022. We’ve heard this idea before – pair a robot-made pizza with mobile delivery – and it ended in disaster. Will this version take off?

It could well, and timing could be a key ingredient. It is often the case that being the first to the party is not advantageous. Zume Pizza, once rated a somewhat ridiculous $ 2 billion, learned this lesson the hard way, shutting down his robotic pizza business in early 2020 and laying off more than 100 employees.

But where Zume’s lofty ambitions of becoming an efficiency-obsessed logistics company, something akin to the pizza Amazon, led to a burn rate that exceeded $ 10 million per day, new outfits and old favorites take a more measured approach to tech-enhanced pizza. , and do so in a post-pandemic environment that has displaced the fast food industry on its doorstep. This includes developers like Piestro, which makes a made-to-order pizza vending machine, and even staples like Little Caesars, which recently patented a pizza-making robot.

The last example is the robotically powered mobile pizzeria, Stellar pizza, which recently announced its launch in the emerging tech hub of Los Angeles in spring 2022. The company is the brainchild of former SpaceX engineer-turned-CEO Benson Tsai. SpaceX alumni also make up the engineering team, and the recipes are in part the creation of former SpaceX executive chef and director of culinary services Ted Cizma.

The idea is to use cutting edge technology and advanced robotics to revolutionize the preparation and delivery of pizzas. With its new pizza maker, Stellar Pizza can create a fully baked pizza in less than five minutes at a production rate of one pizza every 45 seconds. The robot is part of a food truck concept that can deliver a greater amount of fresh, gourmet pizza more consistently than its brick-and-mortar counterparts. Seems familiar?

The economic model is not far from that of Zume, except that Zume’s ambitions have turned it upside down. Zume drew $ 375 million from SoftBank’s Vision Fund and began to evolve with cutting edge technology, but before having a viable business plan. The company also missed the biggest windfall for the food delivery industry from wax-coated paper containers: a global pandemic that suddenly wiped out in-person meals for much of the world for a long time. long period and has adapted consumers to an obsession with sterile preparation practices. .

Enter the robots. Developers have taken leaps back and forth and early entrants into the automated food preparation space, including the creators of Flippy, the burger-making robot, have reached a step of adoption that would have seemed unlikely. not that long ago. Salad vending machines and autonomous ground-based robots delivering take-out meals are now a reality, albeit a nascent reality confined for the time being to smaller test beds. With that in mind, Zume’s flop in January 2020 may look a bit like this video of the marathon runner collapsing just before the finish line.

For Stellar, the robotic pizza-making process begins with a ball of freshly made raw pizza dough, which is pressed and shaped into a round pizza crust. Then a homemade sauce and fresh toppings are added. Finally, the raw pizza is inserted into one of four custom designed high temperature ovens for perfect cooking. In other words, this is exactly how you would make pizza if you were a human, it’s just made by a robot. There is nothing particularly disturbing or unexpected about the idea of ​​automating a repeatable process with high efficiency. Frankly, the guy with flour on his arms twirling a pie at a creosote cap is a bigger head scraper.

That’s why robotic pizza production is a good idea, an idea that should take off as soon as possible. It remains to be seen whether Stellar – or any company – emerges as a revolutionary player in an industry that appears to be doing pretty well. Pizza production will almost certainly benefit from new technologies. But the pizza game probably doesn’t need a new unicorn.

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