COVID-19 will accelerate technological change that will bring the rise of robotics and artificial intelligence to many industries.
In particular, the restaurant industry, and how one Seattle startup is automating pizza kitchens.
The Picnic Pizza System was rolled out at 2019’s CES technology conference in Las Vegas. The robotic pizza-maker fully automates the process of making a pizza. It can make hundreds of customized pizzas, each with different toppings, along with different sizes.
Precision automation allows for consistency in the pizza-making process and minimal food waste, considering food prices are skyrocketing to several-year highs.
Picnic CEO Clayton Wood told KING-TV Seattle that the coronavirus pandemic might have been the catalyst to spur the restaurant industry to begin automating kitchens.
“There’s a unique labor problem in that you can’t have people working shoulder to shoulder in a kitchen, so if you want to produce volumes of food like you do for delivery, you’ve got to produce those orders quickly and with consistency,” Wood said.
Since the pandemic, Picnic has received large investments, allowing the startup to increase its pizza-making robot’s production. The first robot was shipped last week.
Wood said, “we’ve received a lot of interest from all over the foodservice sector, with large and small customers including pizza restaurants, corporate food services, ghost kitchens, food trucks, and convenience stores.”
He also said that operators’ real benefit is not just “labor savings” but also consistency in the product, adding that it allows commercial kitchens to social distance.
However, he did say the robot is not intended to displace jobs but designed to support restaurants and workers in delivery and carry out.
“It’s a ‘co-bot’ where people still work alongside the machine,” Wood said.