It’s hard to fear the robot revolution when they come bearing pizza.
Little Caesars is the latest fast food chain to get in on the robot action. The pizza chain was issued a patent today for what is described as an automated “apparatus provided for assembling pizza,” which includes “a pizza sauce spreading station, a cheese spreading station and a pepperoni applying station.” The robot will have an articulating arm with a gripper attached to grab onto pizzas, as well as a rotary dial system to ensure proper cheese and pepperoni distribution.
The background and summary section of the patent frames the pizza robot as a tool to help retail workers. By partially automating the “labor-intensive endeavor” of pizza-making, the robot can free workers up to perform “other value added tasks.” It will also help improve efficiency, ensuring a more consistent quality pizza at a faster speed.
If Little Caesars put its new patent to use by employing an army of pizza robots in its restaurants, it will mark yet another step forward for automation in casual dining. We’ve already seen food running and bussing robots in the front of house and burger-flipping robots in the kitchen. Judging from the patent photos, Little Caesar’s proposed robot can handle the entire pizza assembly process, handing off a finished product to a human who could either place it on a buffet or slide it into a box for delivery.
Little Caesar isn’t the first company to create an automated pizza assembly system. Zume Pizza in Silicon Valley uses robots to stretch their pizza dough, add sauce, and shuttle their pies into the oven. However, last we heard, they still needed humans to add the toppings—something that Little Caesar’s robot is able to do on its own.
This patent shows that fast food chains are trying to optimize what customers like—speed and low price point—and reduce what they care less about: who (or what) is cooking their food.