SEATTLE — Just as the restaurant industry is shifting, Seattle company Picnic believes the world might now be ready for its pizza-making robot.
The Picnic Pizza System stole the show at last year's CES technology convention in Las Vegas.
The robot wowed convention-goers by quickly rolling out hundreds of customized pizzas, each with different toppings, sizes and even making half-and-half pizzas — all with precision and little food waste.
However, in the restaurant industry, there has been a stigma on automation.
The coronavirus pandemic may be starting to change that, said Picnic CEO Clayton Wood.
“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.
The tech world was clearly ready for a pizza robot. The company sold more than 500 pizzas with less than 1% food waste at the 2020 CES.
Picnic was named “Best of CES” by several reviewers — and it wasn't even an official vendor.
In the past year, Picnic received a substantial investment, allowing the company to ramp up production of its commercial model, which was shipped to its first customer this week.
Wood says they’ve received a lot of interest from all over the food service sector, with large and small customers including pizza restaurants, corporate food services, ghost kitchens, food trucks and convenience stores.
Ultimately, Wood says timing is everything. The company is most satisfied that their innovation is helping the food sector and many friends in the restaurant industry who have been suffering.
Wood said the robot is not intended to take jobs away, but meant to support restaurants and workers in delivery and carry out.
"It’s a 'co-bot' where people still work alongside the machine,” Wood said.
Wood said food automation is an up-and-coming field that's open for innovation.
"We're among the pioneers, but we say, come on we'd love to have some company," Wood said.