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Although convention centers and other public venues have been quiet during the ongoing pandemic, interest in food robots continues to rise. Picnic yesterday announced updates to its automated pizza-assembly system and the addition of food industry executives to its leadership team.
Seattle-based Picnic was founded as Vivid Robotics Inc. in 2016 and has developed its technology to serve venues including restaurants, cafeterias, and mobile food operations. The company‘s hardware, software, and cloud-based and deep learning systems are available through a robotics-as-a-service (RaaS) model. Picnic raised $5 million in seed funding last November.
“Picnic continues to see an increase in customer demand for its automated pizza assembly system,” said the company. “Picnic has been working with several high-profile industry brands, who are looking to streamline pizza making so they can focus more on their food, brand, and customer satisfaction.”
Picnic refines pizza-making robot
Picnic uses a modular assembly line with sauce, cheese, pepperoni, and granular ingredient dispensers. The company claimed its system is easy to install, requires limited build-out, and has a small footprint that fits easily in most locations. It is intended to enable kitchen operators to use their own recipes, maintain consistency, and reduce food waste by eliminating overtopping and spillage. The system can make hundreds of pizzas per hour in any shape from 8 to 18 in., with full per pizza customization, according to Picnic.
The company said its team has been working closely with existing and potential customers while making continuous improvements to its system’s design and function.
Picnic said it has maintained the commercial-grade ruggedness of its design while making it more aesthetically pleasing so it can be placed in front of house. The updated hardware is also intended to be more reliable and easier to assemble and disassemble.
In addition, Picnic made the front and top doors larger to make it easier to monitor and load ingredients, as well as to clean and service the device. More parts are dishwasher-safe, said the company.
The Picnic Pizza System’s new refrigeration and enclosed design ensure all surfaces are maintained at food-safe temperatures, said the company. The improved hopper design allows for drainage of extra liquid for better handling of wet and brined ingredients. The company said it has redesigned its food-handling system to provide better topping accuracy and improve cleanliness.
Ease of use, RaaS, and new execs
Picnic said it has optimized its user interface with easy-to-use menus and utilities so people can operate the system with minimal training. The system also offers improved monitoring and user feedback to let operators know if attention is needed. Although Picnic’s system includes a touchscreen interface for ordering pizza, the company acknowledged that interest in contact-free, hygienic food preparation has intensified during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We are seeing an increase in enthusiasm for our system, and early indications are that the improvements we’ve made resonate with our customers,” stated Clayton Wood, CEO of Picnic. “With our success and these improvements, an increasing number of kitchen operators are contacting us with interest in our system.”
Picnic said its RaaS business model makes it easy for customers to adopt its pizza-making robot because they incur no upfront costs for installation. With a monthly subscription, they receive free delivery, installation, on-site maintenance, and round-the-clock system health monitoring. Other pizza-making robot companies include Zume Pizza, which shut down in January, and Piestro, which is raising money through crowdfunding.
Picnic also announced the addition of food industry executives to its leadership team: Kati Fritz-Jung as chief food scientist, Lamont Glendinning as vice president of sales, Don Coyner as brand director, and Tim Talda as vice president of engineering. Talda will be joining Picnic from Amazon.