The Z with the ‘za

Caught on the streets of Palo Alto yesterday, a food delivery truck from this company:


The one I saw had a snappier slogan, something along the lines of “World’s Only Cooked-On-The-Road Pizza”.  And then there was the name: as a Z-person, I’m keenly alert to words beginning with Z. In any case, our robot overlords are now making pizzas in trucks. Right here in Silicon Valley.

This isn’t fresh news, but I seem to have missed the flurry of Zume stories last year. Like this one from the SF Eater site on 9/30/16, “Pizza Made by Robots, Baked on the Way to Your House: Silicon Valley’s newest intersection of food and tech” by Ellen Fort, beginning:

Robots are the wave of the future, and apparently the future is now. At least that’s the case at Zume Pizza in Mountain View, where robots are making artisanal pizzas, which are then delivered on a high-tech truck that bakes the pizzas on the delivery route.

“The major difference between the pizza you get at a pizzeria and delivery pizza is dwell time,” explains Zume CEO Julia Collins, referring to the time a pizza spends sitting in a cardboard box in the back of a delivery person’s car. And given the fact that pizza is big business in America — bringing in almost $40 billion in revenue each year, with 40 percent of that market controlled by Dominos, Pizza Hut, Little Caesar’s and Papa John’s — the market seems ripe for innovation in a big way.

Part of that innovation is providing a better product. Big pizza companies are adding stabilizers, and other additives to counteract that effect, and create consistency. Collins says that Zume wants “to do away with the chemistry involved in large scale delivery pizza and use technology to make food better.”

So, how does a startup in Silicon Valley do that? Collins and co-founder Alex Garden (formerly an executive at Zynga and Microsoft) are betting on technology, and most importantly, delicious pizza.

There’s a video on the site. From it, a shot of the Zume ‘Zabot in action:


Human beings are involved, tossing the dough and adding toppings, but most of the operation is mechanized. Why, I can’t tell, but I suspect that a lot of it is that here in Nerdtopia we just love cool toys. The idea of cooking the pizzas on the road, to reduce the dwell time to as close to zero as possible, is a promising one, but you don’t need robots to do that. Well, it’s possible that in the long run the robots will be cheaper than human beings.

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