A new niche within the burgeoning AI and food service automation industry has emerged: the pizza robot. In the past month, three pizza-making and delivery robots have been announced or launched by Nala Robotics, Piestro, and Picnic Works. Robots in the kitchen would ensure quality consistency in such a skill-based pizza-making task, while automated pizza delivery could solve the problem of shortage of delivery people.
Also in the humanless restaurant technology sector, Wow Bao announced that the company will also sell its products through vending machine-like hot food kiosks across the country, along with other acquisition and fundraisers.
Tech Tracker summarizes what’s happening in the technology sector of the restaurant industry, including news from restaurants, suppliers, digital platforms and third-party delivery companies. Here’s a breakdown of what you need to know this month and why:
Pizza robots are the next big investment in AI
Artificial intelligence and automation is an attractive technology solution for pizza brands, as pizza making requires niche skill-based hiring and the shortage of delivery drivers has been a challenge for brands like Domino’s, who do not depend on third-party delivery companies to deliver their pizza. .
Nala Robotics has announced a partnership extension with the 12-unit chain, Slice Factory in Chicago for the use of its pizza-making robot, Pizzaiolaä (which can also make burgers, pasta and wings). The pizza robot will be responsible for making the various pizzas of Slice Factory, including its giant 28-inch pie and Chicago-style stuffed pizzas. Pizzaiolaä can press and stretch dough, add sauce, cheese and toppings, and cook, slice and wrap pizza without the help of human employees.
Piestro is tackling the delivery side of the pizza industry through its partnership with Serve Robotics to create an end-to-end delivery automation experience. When a customer places an order with Piestro, the nearest delivery robot is notified and picks up the order from the nearest Piestro pizza capsule. With this innovation, the experience of making and ordering pizza is truly nobody-free thanks to Piestro.
Picnic Works, meanwhile, is partnering with PizzaHQ to split the work between human employees and robots. The pizza-making assembly line can produce 100 pizzas per hour and reduces the cost of pizza making, which will allow PizzaHQ to expand its presence nationwide with Picnic machines located in upcoming stores. Picnic’s automated system can place sauce, cheese and toppings, while accurately measuring the correct number and order of ingredients based on man-made recipes.
Wow Bao turns to vending machines to expand
Wow Bao launches high-tech vending machines in partnership with Automated Retail Technologies and the company’s Just Baked Hot Food kiosks. Wow Bao targets places like hospitals, hotels, bars, schools, airports and casinos to sell its potstickers and dumplings through smart vending machines.
The kiosk offers features such as remote management, contactless ordering and controllable portion sizes, making it a step up from the traditional pre-packaged snack vending machine.
Florida and Georgia are the first target markets with 50 machines in 24 cities, but vending machines will soon be available across North America, especially in food deserts.
“Wow Bao has always believed that evolution and innovation are important to growing the brand, and we are extremely excited about this partnership,” said Geoff Alexander, President and CEO of Wow Bao, in a press release.
Solutions Company CrunchTime Acquires Zenput Mining Platform
CrunchTime Information Systems Inc. announced in June the acquisition of the Zenput operating platform. The two technologies will merge and Zenput’s complementary capabilities, such as food safety management, brand standards and staff productivity tools, will be added to CrunchTime’s list of back-office solutions for restaurant customers. .
Together, the two companies will provide more of an end-to-end solution for repetitive restaurant back-office tasks and decisions.
“The restaurant industry has changed so much over the past two years,” CrunchTime founder and CEO Bill Bellissimo said in a statement. “It is impossible to overstate how much the pandemic has impacted the consumer experience, as well as a restaurant’s ability to serve its customers. With an ongoing labor shortage, supply chain challenges and changing consumer expectations, it’s critical that restaurants have the right technology in place to mitigate these issues.”
Toast acquires scheduling solutions company Sling
Toast is adding more to its repertoire of tech stacks with the acquisition of Sling, an employee scheduling and management solutions company earlier this month, expanding the shared business partnership established last year.
Sling’s digital work management tools will be added to Toast’s established list of payroll and team management tools and will allow employers to simplify scheduling needs and team communication on a single platform.
“Good employees are what make restaurants work,” Aman Narang, COO and co-founder of Toast, said in a statement. “By adding Sling to the Toast platform, we can provide a more comprehensive suite of team management products specifically designed for restaurants, from onboarding new hires to processing payroll, and now the ability to schedule shifts work within the team.
Lunchbox launches direct ordering platform for independent restaurants
Startup technology platform Lunchbox keeps announcing new solutions for family restaurants. The company’s latest project, Lunchbox Essential, is a free direct ordering platform for emerging restaurant brands with one to three locations.
Lunchbox says restaurants can now create an online storefront in less than 30 minutes with a custom menu layout, coupon code capabilities and an app that tracks orders in real time. Founder Nabeel Alamgir said the technology is intended to help restaurants become more independent from third-party delivery giants.
“This is a move to save restaurants. Between interest rate hikes and fears of a recession, operators have faced the biggest setbacks of any industry,” Alamgir said in a statement. “We’re giving restaurants the tools to grow their online revenue and protect their margins from the tech giants.”
Sam Nazarian’s C3 seeks to expand with three new investor partnerships
Virtual restaurants and food technology platform C3 (Creating Culinary Communities) recently announced investor partnerships with Abu Dhabi Capital, Clearlake Capital Group and Arden Digital Ventures. Together with Abu Dhabi Capital, C3 will work on its expansion into the Middle East market. Brands to be introduced to the region include the Umami Burger menu from chef Alvin Cailan, who hosts “The Burger Show” web series.
Partnerships with Clearlake Capital Group and Arden Digital Ventures, meanwhile, will focus more on expanding into the Americas. Arden will help build the company’s presence in commercial real estate developments and hotels, while Clearlake subsidiary Victory Live will help place C3 brands in stadiums and arenas.
In other fundraising news…
Choco, a food tech company aiming to tackle food waste, has become one of the industry’s latest “unicorns” after raising $111 million, and Sharebite last month announced Series B funding from $39 million led by Prosus.