When Zume first came on the scene, a lot of people got hooked on its pizza-making robot. But what was always more intriguing to us here at The Spoon was Zume as a data and logistics platform.
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.
Now Zume wants to license out that know-how, as today it announced a plan to open up its platform to any restaurant that wants to replicate Zume’s logistical and technical expertise. To help facilitate the cooking needs of these third-party implementations, Zume also announced that it has partnered with commercial foodservice equipment maker, Welbilt, to incorporate custom built, hyper-efficient appliances into the next generation of Zume’s customizeable food delivery vehicles.
“It’s all well and good to do pizza,” said Alex Garden, Co-Founder and CEO of Zume in a phone interview. “The truth is that we’ve developed a tech stack that will allow any restaurant to power the next generation of their business.”
The company was light on details, saying that today’s announcement is meant to spark discussions with potential customers. At first, Zume will be more like a consultancy, which works with clients individually to establish their goals and plan out an appropriate technical and vehicular solution. From there it will determine the next best steps and and offer a catalog of Welbilt appliances (steamers, griddles, broilers, etc.) that will work best in any food delivery vehicle.
Garden wouldn’t say exactly what kinds of customers Zume was targeting, but indicated that restaurants that are already at scale and feeling pressures from high wage costs, rent costs, or delivery systems digging too deeply into its margins would be a good fit.
It sounds like Zume is doing what Eatsa did towards the end of last year when it decided to pull back from running its own establishments in favor of helping other restaurants automate their businesses. Unlike Eatsa, however, Zume, which has raised $96 million in funding, is expanding its footprint instead of shrinking. As part of today’s announcement, Zume said it’s adding 26 new delivery locations around the Bay Area by the end of this year, and will completely cover the Bay Area by the end of 2019.
Given the methodical rate at which it’s expanding, powering other restaurants is a less capital-intensive way to reach a national scale. In addition to another line of revenue for the company, partnering with other restaurants would also give Zume access to lots of new geographic, customer and cuisine data sets. These new data sets could expand and improve Zume’s predictive algorithms which should, in turn, boost sales for partner restaurants and help Zume should it decide to broaden the types of food it serves.
Depending on what Zume ends up charging (and the data they demand), it’s easy to see why this could be a welcome partnership for restaurants. As delivery services like Uber Eats and DoorDash take off, more people are choosing to eat from home rather than sit in a restaurant. That’s a lot of square footage that can go unused at a restaurant, and a lot of commissions paid out to those delivery services, which eats into margins.
Additionally, hooking up with Zume would allow a restaurant to better control its own delivery destiny and better protect their brand. Instead of some indifferent third party bringing soggy fries to your door, a restaurant could take advantage of Zume’s cook on the way tech to ensure that the food arrives hot and fresh.
But it’s not all just about third parties and platforms for Zume. There’s still cool stuff like robots, and those next-gen food delivery vehicles, which come with six high-efficiency ovens that can make 120 pizzas in an hour. Now we’ll just have to see how many restaurants climb aboard.