Feb 10, 2022 - Economy

We tried it: a pizza vending machine

Images of the author ordering and receiving a pizza vending machine

Joann Muller gets a pepperoni pizza to go from PizzaForno's automated vending machine. Photos: Bill Rapai for Axios

These days pizza can arrive by car, delivery bot and even drone. Now you can also get a piping hot pie from a vending machine.

What's happening: PizzaForno, a Toronto-based company, is rolling out its automated pizza vending machines across North America, including in Michigan and other U.S. locations. For $10 to $13, they can serve up a hot, 12-inch pizza in under three minutes.

How it works: The pizza is fresh, not frozen, and made by humans but served by a robot.

  • Assembled at a regional commissary "with hand-stretched crusts" and "locally sourced ingredients," the uncooked pizzas are loaded into the refrigerated section of PizzaForno’s 65-square-foot automated oven.
  • The customer chooses a pizza from the menu, then behind the scenes a robotic arm transfers the selected pizza to the oven.
  • Once baked, it's placed in a box, which emerges from a slot in the storefront like money from an ATM.
  • Each vending machine holds 70 pizzas, which have a three-day shelf life. Workers restock the machine with fresh pizzas three times a week.

I selected a $12 pepperoni pizza the other night from a PizzaForno machine in Ann Arbor, near the University of Michigan campus.

  • It worked exactly as described, and the pizza looked and smelled delicious.
  • The dough was limp, though, and the flavors were lacking. Good in a pinch, maybe.
  • But why didn't the robot slice the pizza? It turns out there's a slot in the wall to grab a single-serve, biodegradable knife, but I didn't notice it. Not exactly customer-friendly.
  • You can also get an uncooked pizza to take home for $1 off.

This isn't an entirely new idea. As Erica Pandey noted when she enjoyed server-less dumplings in New York recently, such efforts are reminiscent of the automats of the past, where food appeared in coin-operated kiosks.

The bottom line: Post-pandemic labor shortages could lead to more automated food service in the future.

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