Millions of jobs will be lost to automation as part of the so-called fourth industrial revolution, according to a recent World Economic Forum report, with an anticipated net loss of as many as five million jobs by 2020. Another recent report indicated that more than 100,000 legal jobs will be automated over the next 20 years.
But surely the good ol’-fashioned pizza takeaway and delivery industry won’t be impacted by automation? Think again.
Zume Pizza, a Mountain View, Calif.-based pizzeria, has been operating a commercial part-automated kitchen for more than a year, in which a robotic arm applies the sauce and spreads it on the dough, while another places the pizza in the oven.
So far, humans were still responsible for tossing the dough to create the base, but that is about to change with the launch of the Doughbot, which is touted as the “most efficient and consistent dough presser” that transforms a ball of dough into a pizza base in nine seconds — significantly faster than usual.
“The health and happiness of our customers and employees are the top priority,” said Zume Pizza co-CEO and cofounder Julia Collins. “The Doughbot brings us closer to that goal by allowing us to make each pizza crust five times faster than before while improving the quality of work for staff and speed of delivery for customers,”
While an automated dough-pressing machine may seem like a small iteration on the surface, it helps to highlight an increasingly realistic future where machines are used to automate tasks that only humans could once carry out.
Last year Domino’s launched a Facebook Messenger bot that promises “conversational” pizza ordering through the app, while back in March the company revealed a new pilot project in a handful of European cities that uses ground-faring robots to deliver food within a one-mile radius of select stores.
Creating a pizza almost-entirely through automation is one more step toward a day where the entire process from ordering through to delivery is managed by non-humans. But the positive angle here — in relation to the dough-pressing, at least — is that it eliminates the tiring and repetitive task from humans who may not always create a consistent pizza if they’re doing the same thing hundreds of times a day. With the Doughbot in place, employees can be deployed into new areas of the company, “like menu design and creation, customer service, and delivery logistics,” according to a company statement.
Another notable facet of Zume’s business model is its delivery vans which cater to orders a little further away — the order is prepared and part-baked in the pizzeria, but then shipped off to the vehicle where it’s finished off en route to the destination. While Zume has so far focused on Mountain View, it is now expanding its coverage to Palo Alto and Standford University via new courier scooters which are deployed from the company’s Mountain View HQ and link in with the food delivery vans to help dispatch the pizzas even further afield.
“Introducing a scooter delivery system expands our radius and speed, while not sacrificing the quality of each pizza,” added Alex Garden, co-CEO and cofounder of Zume Pizza.
The ultimate goal of Zume is to expand far beyond the Bay Area, according to Collins, which is why it has now hired Susan Alban to its operations team — Alban previously served as a general manager at Uber where she helped launch UberEats and UberRush across the Bay Area.
“With increasingly busy schedules and preference for staying in over going out, the market for food delivery will continue to grow,” said Alban. “Yet while customers enjoy the convenience of delivery, if the quality isn’t there, they won’t come back. Merging those two can be very challenging, but Zume Pizza is using an innovative approach that solves that.”