With a $132 Billion Available Market, Which Pizza Robot Will Reign Supreme?
Plus, Farmwise, Blendid, Smyze, Tortoise and Broobee's groovy two-armed barista.
OttOmate’s Guide to Robot Pizza
I’ve been thinking about this video (above↑) a lot lately. It resurfaced on Reddit recently and shows a Domino’s pizza worker assembling three pizzas in 39.7 seconds. His dextrous hands and deft topping skills are impressive (for real)!
But there’s also a lot of waste.
He’s remarkably exact when applying sauce, but the cheese? The cheese just flies everywhere as he grabs fistfulls of mozzarella and throws it to the dough. Most of it ends up on the pizza, but there’s a lot that misses the mark. Granted, he’s going for speed and not precision, but it helps illustrate the quirks of us humans, and why when it comes to pizza production, robots are a good idea.
A human can be in a good mood or a bad mood, intensely focused or easily distracted while they work. For people assembling pizzas (or any restaurant meal), these swings can change the final product. One pizza might have too many toppings, another too little, or there could be fistfulls of cheese that wind up on the floor. All of this variability means an inconsistent product, and plenty of food waste — and money lost.
That is where the robots come in. Unlike our human hands, robots dispense the same amount of ingredients each time, every time. Less waste, greater consistency.
And look, that guy in the video is working really hard. He can’t keep that pace up for hours on end. Robots can assemble hundreds of pizzas in an hour and work all day without taking a break. Now, are robot pizzas artisinal? No. They aren’t meant to be. But will the little league team running around like maniacs after a game be thrilled with said robot pizza? Yes. Yes they will.
There’s a huge opportunity in pizza. PMQ Pizza Magazine’s 2021 Pizza Power report projected that worldwide sales of pizza would top $132 billion in 2021. So it’s no surprise there are so many startups around the world building different solutions to automate pizza production.
To keep track of all these startups, this week we launched the OttOmate Guide to Robot Pizza for paid subscribers. From API Tech to xRobotics, it lists all of the pizza vending machines, pizza assembling robots and unattended pizza restaurants we know about from around the world. The guide gives you the basics of each company, what sets them apart from each other, how much they cost and where you can chow down on their pizza right now.
I’m actually doing OttOmate guides to [insert food or beverage here] as a series. Up next week: Booze ‘Bots!
Housekeeping: One newsletter to rule them all
I’m one month into this endeavor and like any good startup, I’m adapting as I realize what this business actually is. So just a heads up that I’m going to now send out one newsletter to all subscribers each week, but stories that have a 🔒 symbol are only accessible to paid subscribers. I’m really trying to make sure I provide maximum value for paid subs and give the startups I talk with the most exposure.
If you haven’t become a paid subscriber yet, please consider it. For just $5 a week, you get inside access to the food robots and automation that will literally change how we get our food and how food businesses operate. This week alone we scooped news on two new drink robots: Broobee and the new version of Smyze!
If you have suggestions to make OttOmate more awesome-mate, please email me!
Jamba boosts its Blendid deal, Blendid boosts its equity crowdfunding
As I’ve said before, I think co-branding is crucial to the success of emerging food and beverage robots. Sure, OttOmate readers are hip to the automation scene and would know what to do if they saw a smoothie making robot in the mall — but everyone else? Probably not.
Blendid’s smoothie-bot is a actually a really good example. The first time people approach a “Blendid” kiosk, they would see a robotic arm making drinks. And sure that’s neat, but also kinda strange, but people would know nothing about Blendid and there’s no human there to ask. So potential customers might just move on.
But slap a Jamba logo on a Blendid machine and voila! That co-branding just clicked for the consumer. They know what they’re going to get at a Jamba, even if it’s a robotic arm doing all the work.
Jamba by Blendid opened up a second location this week in Downey, California. Their first co-branded robot launched at a Walmart in Dixon, California last year. The two haven’t disclosed any sales data from their work together, but things are going well enough that they are already talking about putting smoothie robots in more locations like gyms, hospitals and airports. (Perhaps the promised forthcoming Blendid location in Georgia will be another Jamba?)
While Blendid juices its co-branding efforts, it’s also bulking up its warchest as well. The company, which recently closed $2 million in equity crowdfunding, has also kicked off another crowdfunding campaign to raise $1.5 million more.
And for even more Blendid goodness, the podcast I recorded with Covahne Michaels, the company’s VP of Marketing, is now available to everyone. Give it a listen!
Find and hire diverse tech talent with the nonprofit Per Scholas
Welcome to the Hotel Robo-for-ya (such a lovely place)
The more I look out at the emerging robotics landscape, the more I’m convinced that hotels will be a huge market for autonomous food retail. Hotels service a large number of guests at any given time. Hotels need to have services available around the clock. And many hotels don’t even have full kitchens or room service any more.
Autonomous vending kiosks don’t require any build-out — just plug the robot in (I know it’s a bit more complicated than that, but work with me). And instead of losing all that meal money to DoorDash or Uber Eats, hotels could rev-share with robot vendors set up in their lobby.
Smyze’s autonomous robot kiosk seems like it could tick a lot of boxes for hotels and resorts. It serves a variety of coffee and mocktail type drinks, so its drink menu will appeal to solo business travelers who want their latte as they head out for a meeting, as well as families that want a sweet juice drink in the afternoon to placate children.
I talked with Smyze recently to learn what’s new in their robot, what franchise opportunities are available, and what the heck is going on in Switzerland with robot drink machines. Check out our scoop!
Podcast: Why Farmwise’s robot chops instead of zaps weeds
As Green Cow VC Maggie Sprenger told us a few weeks back, there is a huge opportunity in ag tech. And given how much I hate weeding my own small yard, I imagine farmers hate tackling weeds on their huge tracts of land even more.
Thankfully, there’s a robot to help.
Farmwise builds big, industrial weeding bots. The remote controlled machine goes up and down crop rows, identifying and cutting out all those pesky weeds.
My podcast this week is with Sébastien Boyer, Co-Founder and CEO of Farmwise. In our chat Boyer talks about:
Why their robot cuts out weeds rather than zapping them
What else besides labor is pushing farmers into robotic weeding
Common misconceptions about farmers
Some of his thoughts on the burgeoning indoor ag movement
As always, paid OttOmate subscribers get access to this podcast a week early. If that’s you — thank you! (It’ll be available to everyone next Wednesday)
If you like OttOmate so far, then please feel free share it! We love it when readers spread the word. Thank you!
KRS will drive 500 bots (will they order 500 more)
In every draft of this story, I kept wanting to type that KRS-One ordered 500 last-mile delivery robots from Tortoise. But that would be silly. KRS-One is a legendary rapper, and I’m not sure what he would do with 500 slow-moving sidewalk robots.
In actuality, KRS is a company that provides enterprise software solutions to convenience store chains and restaurants. Now that KRS could definitely use 500 robots to enable last mile delivery for its network of stores!
This a big deal because, well, it’s a big deal. An order of 500 robots is unheard of in the last-mile robot delivery space. Last month I wrote that Tortoise’s robot is unique among robots because it can haul big loads, and uses teleoperators instead self-driving tech. It seems like others are taking note of Tortoise’s versatility as well. This deal with KRS follows a similar one Tortoise made earlier this year with Vroom Delivery.
For more, jump to the full story to read how Tortoise is speeding ahead of the robot delivery pack.
Where it’s at. I’ve got two articulators and some latte foam
Just days after I published the OttOmate Guide to Robot Baristas last week, Broobee officially launched in Portland, Oregon.
Unlike other players in the robot cafe game, Broobee sports not one, but two articulating arms that work in concert with one another to serve drinks as fast as possible (average is a drink a minute). I spoke with Broobee’s founder, Gagan Singh about his new coffee bot, his desire to build a Broobee brand (no co-branding!) and how he’s using computer vision to re-create the human barista experience.
Headlines you may have missed
Wavemaker Labs acquires IP from agtech startup Abundant Robotics (The Robot Report) - Wavemaker’s Future Acres will see how it can use Abundant’s computer vision and effector technology to add manipulation capabilities to the Carry robot.
Seven Eleven prepares drone delivery service (in Korea) (The Korea Herald) - The convenience store chain will do a pilot with Pablo Air later this year. Slurpee’s by air FTW!
UK's Ocado invests in Wayve for autonomous grocery deliveries (Nasdaq) - The UK grocer put 10 million pounds ($13.6 million) into the self-driving tech startup.
Could robots save school lunches?
School cafeterias across the US are facing the same labor and cost issues that every other sector of the food business is dealing with. But the problems in cafeterias are compounded by the fact that the labor pool is much smaller for school districts because workers must go through extensive background checks.
Could all-in-one canteen robots like those from Karakuri and RoboEatz be a good solution? They can crank out a variety of meals, don’t require background checks and can even separate out allergens.
There’s a lot of money in school lunches, and more importantly, a lot of kids who need the meals.
That’s it for this week!
Stay cool. Have a great summer. Class of ‘90 rulez.