In a move to further enhance its delivery strategy, Pizza Hut unveiled a “mobile pizza factory” this week that could potentially be as cool as the name makes it sound.
Dubbed the Tundra PIE Pro, the pizza-making truck, which Pizza Hut created with Toyota, made its first public appearance at Toyota’s 2018 Specialty Equipment Market Association Show in Las Vegas on Tuesday.
For the autonomous pizza-making machine, Pizza Hut converted a truck bed into the “kitchen,” which features a fridge, a conveyor oven, and two robotic arms powered by a computer. Once an order is placed, one robotic arm takes the chosen pizza from the fridge and puts it in the high-speed, ventless conveyor oven. Once cooked, the pizza leaves the other side of the oven, where robotic arm number two slices and boxes it up. There’s a human in the truck, for driving, but that’s the extent of what they’re required to do. Pizza Hut says the Tundra PIE Pro can cook a pizza in six to seven minutes.
Right now, the machine is just a prototype, though Burquier says Pizza Hut is “looking forward to learning more before making a decision to deploy it into a test market.” He added that “this next-generation technology could lead to a number of potential uses down the road.”
If this were three years ago, I would wonder how practical a mobile pizza-making robot actually was. But for pizza chains nowadays, innovating big seems to be what’s driving business, particularly as companies compete to get faster, hotter pies to your front door. Domino’s is basically a tech company, equipped with chatbots, drones, and the ability to deliver to geographic locations rather than addresses. Little Caesars, who’s in some ways built its business on not delivering, unveiled a pizza portal in September it says could boost customer mobile orders.
Zume Pizza is the most direct competitor in terms of actual tech. The company operates a network of mobile pizza trucks that do a final-cook of the pies in smart ovens, then deliver them via a fleet of scooters.
For Pizza Hut’s new “factory” to be successful, it’ll have to deliver efficiency along with speed, and still ensure the pizzas actually taste good. Mass deployment of these trucks, which aren’t yet scheduled, will be the real test.