Goodbye Humankind: Robots Are Making Pizza

(CN) — In a trend that likely has Italians around the world saying “mamma mia,” a Silicon Valley restaurant has begun using robots to prepare pizzas.
     And Zume Pizza, in Mountain View, California, isn’t the only restaurant to use intelligent machines to cut into the multibillion-dollar pizza delivery market — a growing number of food-tech firms are making inroads into the restaurant industry.
     “We’re going to eliminate boring, repetitive, dangerous jobs, and we’re going to free up people to do things that are higher value,” co-founder Alex Garden — a former Microsoft manager and president of game maker Zynga — told the Associated Press.
     Pizza travels down a conveyer belt where machines add sauce before carefully sliding the uncooked pies into an 800-degree oven. Zume will soon add robots to prepare the dough and add the appropriate toppings.
     “We automate those repetitive tasks so that we can spend more money on higher-quality ingredients,” Zume’s CEO and co-founder Julia Collins said. “There will always be a model here at Zume where robots and humans work together to create delicious food.”
     Tech startups are building robots to help reduce labor costs, increase production efficiency and improve safety in the restaurant industry.
     The San Francisco-based firm Momentum Machines is creating robots to prepare gourmet hamburgers, while another San Francisco startup BistroBot has designed a machine that makes sandwiches while customers watch.
     “We’re trying to automate some of the stations you might find in restaurants,” Bistrobot co-founder Jay Reppert said. “It’s quicker, it’s cheaper, it’s more consistent and it’s this really fun experience to share with people.”
     While robots can produce simple foods such as pizza and burgers, they will not be able to take over more complicated tasks just yet.
     “There are so many jobs in food service that are so complex that it will be a very long time before we have robots doing them,” said Ken Goldberg, director of the University of California, Berkeley’s Automation Lab. “I want to reassure restaurant workers that the skills they have are still going to be of value.”
     Zume’s founders say they plan to transition roughly 50 employees to new jobs as robots take over more kitchen work and the company opens new locations.
     The startup also plans to bring innovation to pizza delivery. This fall Zume plans to deploy trucks equipped with 56 ovens that can bake pizzas en route to customers, allowing them to deliver dozens of orders without returning to the kitchen.
     The company is also trying to shorten delivery times with software that anticipates when and what kind of pizzas customers will order.
     Charity Suzuki, who regularly uses the Zume mobile app to order pizza, told the Associated Press that she isn’t bothered by robots preparing her food.
     “It’s delicious. It’s always hot and fresh when it comes,” Suzuki said. “I can’t tell the difference that it’s made by a robot versus a human.”
     Photo caption:
     In this Monday, Aug. 29, 2016 photo, a robot places a pizza into an oven at Zume Pizza in Mountain View, Calif. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

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