Well. That Was a Bad Week for Robot Pizza🍕😞
A bad vending machine experience and Pazzi is gone-zi.
As long-time OttOmate readers know — there are lots o’ startups out there developing pizza robots. But the automated pizza pie space hit some hurdles this past week that definitely don’t bode well for the sector’s future. At least in Europe.
First, let’s hop over to Scotland, where John McCarthy posted a hilarious-because-it-happened-to-someone-else Twitter thread about ordering pizza from The Pizza Machine vending machine in Glasgow. I’ll post a couple highlights here (hat tip to The Seattle Food Geek):
How it started:
How it went:
Ick. Yuck. I had never heard of The Pizza Machine company, so I don’t know anything about it. It’s definitely not alone in the straight-up pizza vending machine space where there are other players like API Tech and Pizza Forno. But this… is not good. The story went viral and was picked up by the Daily Mirror.
But the experience does highlight the biggest problem with autonomous retail — there’s no manager to talk to and no place to send your raw pizza back. Your only recourse at the time is to create a well-written, hilarious Twitter thread.
If that weren’t enough, The Spoon reported on Friday that French pizza startup, Pazzi has shut down. Pazzi was among the first pizza robot startups, and had opened two locations in Paris. Per The Spoon:
According to an email sent to The Spoon, the Paris-based startup had seen its assets liquidated by a French court. The company, which had attempted to find a buyer, closed the doors of its two restaurants last Monday and will lay off its remaining 35 employees in the coming days.
Pazzi wasn’t a vending machine company, rather it had small restaurants with fully automated kitchens. A robot with three articulating arms would press and top the dough, slide the pizza into the oven, slice it and box it and deliver it to a cubby.
This has actually been a pretty rough year for automated pizza. Back in April, Basil Street Pizza, another pizza vending machine company shut down and liquidated its assets.
So what’s going on? Pizza seems like a perfect use case for robots. Everyone loves pizza! Who wouldn’t want it available 24 hours a day?
Well, hardware is hard and expensive. If you’re just reheating a frozen or chilled pizza, that’s a little simpler, but the pizza probably won’t taste as good as freshly made. If you’re building a robot to make the pizza — that’s actually super complicated. Pizza dough is a tricky substance to work with. It stretches and tears and sticks. Pazzi actually put a lot of work just in getting its robot to play nice with dough, and it wasn’t something it could switch up. You can’t just swap in another recipe because that will act totally differently.
Having said all that, the market opportunity in pizza is just too big and the stronger players in the automation space will survive because, well, as John McCarthy pointed out — people do want pizza at all hours of the night.
But it’s not all bad news for pizza robots. Stellar Pizza, which outfits box trucks with pizza making robots, announced last week that it had raised a $16.5 million funding round led by Jay-Z’s Marcy Venture Partners (insert 99 problems joke here — you hacks).
And that news comes a week after Pizza Hut in Canada conducted a pilot to use delivery robots from Serve. And that news followed Domino’s in Germany starting up a pilot with Picnic.
So pizza robots aren’t dead yet — though Piestro better be paying attention and tightening up operations.