Automated vending machines were already hot coming into 2020. Companies like Briggo, Cafe X, Yo-Kai Express and Chowbotics were ushering in a new golden age of vending machines. With the COVID-19 pandemic forcing us to look at ways of reducing human-to-human contact when serving food, it looks like this golden age of automated vending is just getting started.
A portmanteau of pizza + maestro, Piestro is a colorful standalone automated kiosk. Inside, a robotic arm spins the dough under dispensers that pour sauce and apply cheese and other toppings. Then the pizza is run through a heater before being boxed up and popped out in 3 minutes. No word on the variety of pizzas (the video below shows pepperoni, peppers and mushrooms), but pizzas can be ordered via touchscreen on the machine or mobile app.
Piestro is actually entering a market that is already pretty competitive. Basil Street recently raised $10 million for its pizza vending machine, API Tech has more than 200 pizza machines in operation in Europe, and earlier this year Le Bread Xpress launched the Bake Xpress, which makes pizzas. Additionally, there’s Picnic, though its robots only do pizza assembly (not cooking), and PAZZI’s robot pizza maker is more of a micro restaurant than a vending machine.
Of these, Piestro seems to be most like the API Tech in that it’s not re-heating frozen pizzas, but the machine has the assembly elements of Picnic and the theatrical flair of Cafe X.
Piestro is just in a prototype phase right now, so it’s not currently available on the market. It looks like Piestro launched its equity crowdfunding campaign on StartEngine over the weekend and has gone on to raise more than $82,000 dollars. And if we are reading the terms outlined on the campaign page correctly, Piestro is aiming to raise close to $1.07 million. We’ve reached out to Piestro to find out more details.
Another thing of note about Piestro is the team behind it. Piestro CEO Massimo De Marco was a co-founder of ghost kitchen company, Kitchen United. Piestro’s COO is Kevin Morris, who is also the CFO of Miso Robotics. Buck Jordan, CEO of Miso Robotics and partner at Wavemaker Labs, which made a lead investment in Piestro, is on the Board. FWIW, Miso is also running an equity crowdfunding campaign of its own.
I’m a big believer in the vending machine space, and I do think that the global pandemic will accelerate the trend. First and foremost, the food that vending machines create is higher quality than ever, and the cuisines served will continue to diversify. Second, the small physical footprint of vending machines means that they can be placed just about anywhere for convenient food on the go. And finally the humanless aspect could carry more importance as people are more concerned about who is touching their food.
From the campaign, Piestro has a dual go-to market approach. In Phase 1 it will be making its own pizzas and selling directly to consumers. In Phase 2 it will license out the technology to existing pizza companies. Though it doesn’t provide a ton of details, Piestro says that its machines can be up and running in two weeks for a cost of $50,000.
If Piestro’s crowdfunding campaign is successful, pizza and vending machines could be a hot combination to watch out for.