Pizza Vending Machines and Robots: Is This the Future of Pizza?

Delivery pizza for all was one of the greatest inventions of the 20th century, but it's time for an upgrade. Here come the robots

By Emma Kumer, Digital Editorial Intern

Mushroom, pepper pizza on a circular wooden plate on a blue table with plaid cloth to the left and pizza cutter

Pizza delivery is a tradition that dates back to the 1800s. It is said that the Italian Queen Margherita ordered a pizza from a Naples bakery to get a taste for the authentic local specialty. (If she sounds familiar, it's probably because she was an important historical figure...oh, and the namesake of everyone's favorite tomato-mozzarella-basil pizza!) The baker traveled as fast as he could to ensure the pizza was not cold by the time it arrived at the royal quarters, and thus began the phenomenon we call pizza delivery. Today, you don't have to be royalty to pick up a phone, rattle off your favorite toppings and wait for the pizza to come to you. When it comes to pizza, the world has come a long way. So, what's the latest in pizza delivery innovation?

Ever tried pizza from an ATM?

In August 2016, the first pizza ATM in the U.S. opened. The lucky location? Xavier University in Cincinnati, Ohio. The brains behind the operation belong to French company Paline, which introduced the ATMs to Europe first and has hundreds of machines there.

How does it work? The machine houses dough, toppings and an oven. Users enter their choice of toppings on a touch screen, pay about $10...and wait. In just three minutes, a fresh, piping hot pizza slides out of the machine. Xavier students can order a pizza any time of day, any day of the year, with any toppings in stock.

Pizza ATMs are expected to proliferate, as colleges and businesses around the country are eager to get their hands on one of their own.

Pizza made by robots may revolutionize the delivery process.

Take, for example, the story of Zume Pizza in San Francisco. This restaurant's kitchen employs a team of human cooks and robots to turn out quality pies fast. They can make a full pizza in four minutes and make and deliver 372 pizzas in an hour. (Even these quick 30-minute dinners don't come close to that.)

This isn't an entirely new thing—most take-and-bake grocery store pizzas are cranked out in factories—but Zume founder Julia Collins wanted to use high-quality ingredients to create an "artisanal" result. Step by step, she replaced nearly every part of the time-consuming pizza-making process with a robot that could do the work more accurately and efficiently than a human. At first, the machines just handled basic steps, like moving the dough from station to station. Then, engineers designed robots (cutely called Pepe and Giorgio) to squirt the sauce, and another (Marta) to spread it. The final robot is the Doughbot, which can press a ball of dough into a perfectly shaped pizza crust in just nine seconds.

Perhaps the most revolutionary aspect of Zume's pizza is the delivery process. Vans are equipped with ovens that finish baking the pies en route, eliminating the dreaded dwell time—an industry term for the twenty minutes a pie spends in the back of the delivery person's car, getting cold and soggy. Zume also takes customer data from previous orders to determine which pizzas are popular in certain neighborhoods at certain times. The pizza trucks start making the popular pies in advance—in other words, they know that you want a spinach and feta pizza before you even place the order.

Want to taste test these mind-blowing creations? At the moment, Zume Pizza is only available in Silicon Valley, but their streamlined process might just revolutionize food delivery.

Getting hungry? Try making a homemade pie in the meantime, or make something robots haven't made (yet) with outside-the-box pizza-inspired recipe.