Sometimes there is a difference between the news and the story. For instance, the news today is Zume, Inc., the parent company of Zume Pizza, announced that its mobile kitchen technology will be used by the &Pizza chain.
Technically, &Pizza has already been using Zume’s mobile kitchen at one location in Washington D.C., but that is just the beginning of the partnership. According to the press release sent to The Spoon, the mobile kitchens will be used to expand &Pizza’s brand in new markets and test new products before adding them to &Pizza’s brick and mortar location menus.
So that’s the news. But the story here is actually how Zume is creating a new category of kitchen, one that exists somewhere between the traditional restaurant, virtual kitchen and food truck.
To recap: Zume’s mobile kitchens are pretty much what you would imagine: big trucks outfitted with appliances that can be parked in neighborhoods, closer to customers, to ideally make food delivery faster. Place a food order and the WiFi enabled devices on board the mobile kitchen guide the cooks, make the meal, coordinate delivery pickup and keeps you up to date the entire time.
Right now, &Pizza is just using the Zume’s mobile kitchens, but Zume also offers a full-stack solution that includes predictive analytics and packaging. In theory, this should bring a new level of efficiency to a restaurant looking to expand its operations. Here’s how:
A mobile kitchen requires less investment than a traditional brick and mortar restaurant because you don’t have to build out and maintain a permanent location. This is also the pitch of virtual kitchen spaces like Kitchen United, which lease out commercial restaurant infrastructure for delivery-only restaurant concepts. But while virtual kitchens remain static in one location, a mobile kitchen can park out in different neighborhoods for closer proximity to a restaurant’s customers. A food truck has the mobility, but they are based around nearby foot traffic, so their potential market size is limited.
Even with all promised flexibility around its mobile kitchens, the main hook with Zume has always been its predictive analytics. As we wrote previously:
Zume takes into consideration hundreds of data points, such as day of the week, weather, school calendars and more to develop predictions around how much pizza and what types of pizza will be ordered in a given location. From there a food delivery vehicle cooks up the pizza on the move and delivers it with precise timing.
Zume Inc. subsidiary, Zume Pizza, knows which neighborhoods will order pizza (and gets the proper permitting to set up camp), what types and how many pizzas will be ordered. From there, it can pre-make those pizzas in a central facility and store them in the mobile kitchen so when the orders come in, they just need to be baked and delivered. The limited space of mobile kitchens can be stocked efficiently, delivery drivers can make more dropoffs because they aren’t driving around town, and the food arrives fresher for the consumer because it hasn’t traveled very far. Zume even offers special compostable packaging that restaurants can use.
And it’s not just pizza. Zume opened up its data platform to all types of cuisine last year so Thai or Chinese restaurants or whatever can be outfitted with custom mobile kitchens with the necessary equipment to do the same.
Zume already got $375 million from SoftBank last year, with another potential $375 million more as part of that deal. So the company has the money to scale out operations to different restaurants and regions. &Pizza and Zume may have made news today, but the story to watch over the coming year is how many other restaurants license Zume’s technology.