Las Vegas Convention Center food service provider Centerplate, is impressing the expected 200,000 people flocking to CES 2020 this week with Seattle-based Picnic’s pizza-making robot. A machine capable of churning out up to 300 pizzas an hour. Centerplate has already used Picnic’s pizza tech during a pilot program at Seattle’s T-Mobile Park last year.
There’s really nothing to it, or perhaps that’s just how this machine makes it seem. The robot moves the dough along a conveyor belt, as it variously drizzles cheese, followed by tomato sauce, fresh pepperoni and toppings, before it slaps the dish onto a heating pad for baking.
Talking about toppings, the robot has a series of modules that sprinkles whichever toppings you want in whichever order you choose. And you still get the human touch – since it’s human workers who prepare the dough and sauce and cut up the baked pizza.
AI comes into play via a vision system that allows the robot to make adjustments if the pizza is slightly off-center. It’s also hooked up to the internet and sends data back to Picnic™ so the system can learn from any mistakes.
Picnic’s automated system requires just one worker to place the dough into the assembly line and replenish the toppings. “Low-trained workers, especially in food service where there is huge turnover, tend to make pizza very inconsistently,” Picnic™ CEO Clayton Wood told spectators. “We can make the same pizza over and over again, with fresh ingredients that the chef chooses.”
Meant mostly for restaurants, Picnic’s business model is pizza-as-a-service. Restaurant owners pay a regular fee in return for the system and ongoing maintenance as well as software and hardware updates.
In fact, Clayton Wood insists Picnic’s robot saves restaurants money since it saves them workers and time. Furthermore, the robot supplies restaurants with the equivalence of the food service workers that the 2019 State of the Restaurant Industry Report says are hard to come by:
Staffing is a top challenge. The prolonged economic expansion has led to a tighter labor market for business in many industries, but the restaurant industry also continues to be impacted by longer-term structural changes in the labor force. As a result, recruiting and retaining employees will be among the top challenges faced by restaurant operators in 2020.
Well, now that problem is solved with Picnic’s pizza-making machine. Particularly, since the robot churns out hundreds of 12-inch or 18 inch customized pizzas an hour.
As to pizza making competitors, we’ve had robot pizza machines a plenty that include the pizza-making robot by two French engineers (it never left the factory shelf); the San Francisco-based Zume’s pizza robot system and Little Caesars patented pizza-making robot, among others.
So, how does Picnic’s pizza-making machine compare?
For starters, it’s small enough to fit in most restaurant kitchens, the recipes can be tweaked to suit your whims, and – best of all – the ingredients are fresh.
Down the line, Picnic wants to use the same robotic system to assemble salads, bowls and sandwiches.
So far, the robot’s still relatively new to the public scene. But look out – it’s on the way: