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Robot Pizza Company 'Zume' Wants To Be 'Amazon of Food' (bloomberg.com) 208

kheldan writes: Do you want robots making your pizza? Alex Garden, co-founder and executive chairman of Mountain View startup Zume, is betting you will. Garden, the former president of Zynga Studios, was previously a general manager of Microsoft's Xbox Live. Garden launched Zume in stealth mode last June, when he began quietly recruiting engineers under a pseudonym and building his patented trucks in an unmarked Mountain View garage. In September, he brought on Julia Collins, a 37-year-old restaurant veteran. She became chief executive officer and a co-founder. Collins was previously the vice president and CEO of Harlem Jazz Enterprises, the holding company for Minton's, a historic Harlem eatery. The company consists of an army of robot sauce-spreaders and trucks packed full of ovens. "In the back of Mountain View's newest pizzeria, Marta works tirelessly, spreading marinara sauce on uncooked pies. She doesn't complain, takes no breaks, and has never needed a sick day. She works for free." The pie then "travels on a conveyer belt to human employees who add cheese and toppings." From there, "The decorated pies are then scooped off the belt by a 5-foot tall grey automation, Bruno, who places each in a 850-degree oven. For now, the pizzas are fully cooked and delivered to customers in branded Fiats painted with slogans, including: 'You want a piece of this?' and 'Not part of the sharing economy.'" Garden says, "We are going to be the Amazon of food. [...] Just imagine Domino's without the labor component. You can start to see how incredibly profitable that can be."
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Robot Pizza Company 'Zume' Wants To Be 'Amazon of Food'

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  • wow (Score:5, Funny)

    by sootman ( 158191 ) on Friday June 24, 2016 @09:32PM (#52386201) Homepage Journal

    A former employee of Microsoft, makers of the Zune, names his company "Zume"? Don't strain your creativity muscle there, pal.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Nethead ( 1563 )

      Sootman: Dear Slashdot: next time you want to mess with the site, add a rich-text editor for comments.

      Oh hell no! That leads to the evil path of emojies and animated gifs. Oh hell no!

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by sootman ( 158191 )

        Nah, I just want bold, ital, etc. No, definitely no GIFs.

        They'll also need to remember to update their CSS so ULs and OLs work at all.

        • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

          by Anonymous Coward

          Nah, I just want bold, ital, etc.

          Yeah! The readership of slashdot is not anywhere near technologically savvy enough to have bold, italic, or other effects without a toolbar. Leave that coding stuff to the nerds.

        • by sconeu ( 64226 )

          Really/? You can get bold and ital

          Did you even look at the "Allowed HTML" below the Submit button?

    • Re:wow (Score:4, Funny)

      by Opportunist ( 166417 ) on Friday June 24, 2016 @10:30PM (#52386419)

      I just wonder why he wants to name his product after a product that is a well known train wreck. I mean, would you call your company Emron?

  • Wait a minute... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by 93 Escort Wagon ( 326346 ) on Friday June 24, 2016 @09:42PM (#52386239)

    It says right there that humans add the cheese and other toppings. How is that "without a labor component"?

    • The only robots mentioned spread the sauce and put it in the oven. Like you mention humans add the toppings. Nothing is mentioned about the dough so that's probably a person and the same thing about cutting the pizza after it's in the box.

      • Good grief, spreading the sauce is by far the easiest task too - I really doubt they're saving much - if anything - over having a human doing that.

    • by swb ( 14022 )

      Why can't the automation add toppings?

      For some reason we like Papa Murphy's take-and-bake pizzas, and they weigh all the ingredients that go on the pizza. The only human aspect is nominally spreading the weighed amount sort of even, things I believe could be done pretty easily via automation.

      I suppose there may be some ingredients more difficult to add via automation, but not many.

  • by kheldan ( 1460303 ) on Friday June 24, 2016 @09:42PM (#52386243) Journal
    I submitted this story specifically so I could say that: I don't want robots making my pizza, I want a skilled human being making my pizza, not for what a pizza costs. Otherwise I'd just settle for a shitty frozen pizza and throw it in the oven at home for a fraction of the price. At the very least there has to be a competent human being supervising the automated process for quality control purposes, but even then some pizza made on an assembly line by a bunch of robots just doesn't sound appetizing. If this is what the world ends up going to, then I guess I'll be staying home and making my own meals 100% of the time. I suspect I won't be alone in that, either.
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      99% of the food you bring home was robot handled by the farmer, packer or entirely in the case of processed foods.

      It's ok for robots to mix bags of salad, or to combine flour and salt to make bread in bulk...

      i'd rather a consistent robot than angst filled teenager capable of manufacturing and distributing hair, mucus, saliva, blood, semen and other biological contaminants onto my pizza.

      • 99% of the food you bring home was robot handled by the farmer, packer or entirely in the case of processed foods.

        If you actually eat real food instead of Cheetohs and diet root beer, that's simply not true. You gotta learn to cook, brother.

      • by MrKaos ( 858439 )

        i'd rather a consistent robot than angst filled teenager capable of manufacturing and distributing hair, mucus, saliva, blood, semen and other biological contaminants onto my pizza.

        An anonymous robot making and anonymous pizza for an annoymous coward - sorry friend it's going to be primed by an anonymous human. An anonymous pizza robot primer can jizz into the sauce container for the robot to maximize the distribution of semen over many pizzas. Coupled with some of foot shavings into the flour of the robot feeder and some urine into the water tank should encourage people to learn how to cook for themselves.

        Once you learn how to cook for yourself you can appreciate that creativity and

      • Yes, but bearing grease and hydraulic oil in your pizza will make it taste weird...
    • by maliqua ( 1316471 ) on Friday June 24, 2016 @10:06PM (#52386341)

      You don't get a skilled human you get underpaid people who don't give a fuck about you or your pizza and are resentful to their employer.

      who do you think makes pizza, graduates with a 3 year degree in pizza making? Trained chef's from italy? 3rd generation pizza makers with skills past down from their father and their father before him?

    • Pizza and Hamburgers (Score:5, Interesting)

      by rsilvergun ( 571051 ) on Friday June 24, 2016 @10:38PM (#52386445)
      are popular fast food because there's very little actual skill involved in making it. It's bread and cheese and toppings. If your a restaurateur then you want to make food that doesn't need expensive labor so you can maximize profit and have employees that don't need a lot of training. Well trained employees have to be coddled because they've got options.

      This makes the pizza and hamburger biz ripe for automation. I like what some blokes in Europe suggesting: Tax robots and spread the wealth. I don't know what else we'll do besides have a massive underclass of people without food security and absolutely nothing to lose. The cool thing is when this happens you get a high crime rate and then the ruling class gets to move hard right to crack down on all that crime, creating a self perpetuating system. I'm seeing this in Brazil, Venezuela and the Philippians and I figure the whole world is gonna go this route or else Scandinavian style socialism. I'm hoping for the latter but not betting on it.
      • by quax ( 19371 )

        Don't have mod points right now, so here we go: Very insightful comment.

        Really don't see an alternative to a basic minimal income in the future, it's either that or complete dystopia.

        • "Really don't see an alternative to a basic minimal income in the future"

          And I really don't get how this "basic minimal income" meme has come from, except there *is* a Protocols of the Elders of Zion-style plan for world domination. Nobody can really be that stupid as to think basic income is, at least on itself, anything but a very very bad idea for those hoping for it, which means there must be a really strong conspiration from those that will really benefit from it (those that already reached the 0,1% s

      • by Kjella ( 173770 )

        Pizza and Hamburgers are popular fast food because there's very little actual skill involved in making it. It's bread and cheese and toppings. If your a restaurateur then you want to make food that doesn't need expensive labor so you can maximize profit and have employees that don't need a lot of training. Well trained employees have to be coddled because they've got options. This makes the pizza and hamburger biz ripe for automation.

        Somehow, I can't connect the first thing you said to the last. If you have expensive, hard to replace workers that need coddling wouldn't they be the ones ripe for automation, all other things being equal? Robots are really good at three things, mass production, precision and consistency and food processing isn't the first one - then I'm thinking about making a million gadgets to ship in containers. If you just need to get it roughly right and failure is not a big deal - whoops we burned your pizza we'll ma

        • The missing link in his argument is:
          jobs that are easy to do will probably be easier (hence financially viable) to automate.

          The truth of this is debatable, as sometimes an easy skill for a human is hard to automate, and sometimes a hard skill is easy to automate.

          You are correct in your assertion that high skill staff would have a bigger payoff in automation - but again it all comes back to their pay vs the cost of R&D to automate. Your risotto example does sound like a prime candidate if the parameters

          • Another aspect is that low skill jobs usually have a larger margin of error. This means that you can come to market sooner with an earlier prototype, and continue to refine once revenue starts coming in.

    • I make all of my own meals 100% of the time. I had to start when I was ten years old, so have been dong it a long time (yes, I know there's a joke in there, but STFU), but honestly, it is not that hard and anyone can get pretty fast with a few months practice. Watch some youtube videos and do what is shown on the screen. If you can pass high school level chemistry, you can cook almost anything.
      • I cook for myself 95% of the time, and the other 5% of the time I want high quality tasty food for my money not some crap that came out of an automated assembly line. Thanks so much for making a broad assumption about me that I can't cook.
    • Robots will be doing a lot more than pizza, in a world of 15$ + minimum wage...
  • by guruevi ( 827432 ) <evi&evcircuits,com> on Friday June 24, 2016 @09:44PM (#52386251) Homepage

    There are plenty of factories that make pizza's using robots, there is nothing new about that and there are a handful of companies that will sell you a custom 'robot' (or as they used to call it, a conveyor belt). Given the amount of time and money spent (employee cost, prototyping etc) reinventing the wheel, I'm not sure whether it would be a good investment to go into business with such morons.

    • Yeah that was my reaction too. "Uhh... I don't think Tony's frozen pizzas are made by humans. "

      • by guruevi ( 827432 )

        Hell, ever been to a Pizza Hut and looked in the back? The pizzas are mostly made by robots as well, the only thing the people on-site do is put special toppings on, but if you order a 'regular menu item', you're most likely getting a pizza out of a package. McDonalds and pretty much any fast food chain does it as well, after reading the article, $18 seems a bit pricey for a simple pizza.

    • by Cyberax ( 705495 )
      There is a difference. You can make a pizza in the factory, freeze it and then deliver it to outlets. But it won't be tasty, just ask Dominoes. These robots allow you to start with freshly-prepared dough and make pies at the point of sale - this is really new.

      My friend owns a small pizza restaurant in Russia, and he keeps telling me that the great problem with pizzas is consistency. It's not hard to make dough and spread some sauce on it, but it's quite sensitive to small variations in the temperature and
      • by guruevi ( 827432 )

        So you're moving the factory closer to home, there is a reason Domino's, Pizza Hut etc doesn't do that, mainly cost and scale.

        The "robots" (or food processing conveyor systems as they are known) are easily obtained, a number of companies make them but they could make an entire day of pizza for an outlet in under an hour, it's more economical to have the place to make all your pizza's in a central location, ship it and have a $10/h monkey put it in the oven.

        You don't have to freeze it, you could vacuum pack

        • by Cyberax ( 705495 )

          So you're moving the factory closer to home, there is a reason Domino's, Pizza Hut etc doesn't do that, mainly cost and scale.

          Yes, and that's why it'll be tastier, and it won't cost that much extra. Cost of ingredients is really a red herring, unless you want pizza with exotic stuff. The main components of pizza are very cheap, even for high quality stuff.

          Domino has to do serious penny-pinching, to make sure their pizzas are 10 cents cheaper than the pizzas next door. But there's a huge market of people (especially in affluent places like Mountain View) that are willing to pay extra couple of bucks for better quality pies, but w

  • Why does everything have to be robot/drone-delivered these days? Why not automate the job of a CEO or Board of Directors, and fire them.
    • by lucm ( 889690 )

      The board of directors is already controlled by an algorithm running on servers at JP Morgan or SilverLake. You think Tim Cook decides how many iPhones he has to sell in the next three months?

      we're all variables in a sad little script written in APL

    • "Why not automate the job of a CEO or Board of Directors, and fire them."

      Because it is the CEO or the Board of Directors the one choosing who gets fired and who gets a bonus. Become a CEO and you will be totally free to fire yourself without bonuses or seven digit severance packages if so you want.

      Easy, isn't it?

  • A robot will always give the right amount of sauce, toppings, cheese, and cooking time. Always. Ok, so when you phone in the order when your buddy is working there you might get extra pepperoni and cheese, but how many of us have friends working in a pizza joint?
    CSB time. When I was 19 or so a friend worked in a pizza joint. Our trick was to call in a pizza that would be ready 5 minutes before closing (this was before pizza delivery, I'm old, deal with it), then not go pick it up. Mike would close th
    • Except that all they have robots doing is the sauce and putting the pizza in the oven. Everything else is done by humans.

  • How hot will that pizza still be three days later when UPS drops it on my doorstep in Yavapai County, AZ?

    • How hot will that pizza still be three days later when UPS drops it on my doorstep in Yavapai County, AZ?

      Where you getting your pizza now? Rosa's, Pisa Lisa's, Aroma or Crusty's?

  • It'll succeed if they can deliver good pizzas for a cheap price. Why would his customers care how much money he's making?
    • Directly, they probably won't. Indirectly, how much money he is making is going to show up in his prices relatively quickly unless he somehow convinces people that approximately-adequate pizza isn't pretty close to commodified in most markets large enough to have overlapping take-out joints.

      It's also amusing that he wants to "be the Amazon of food" and thinks that what he is doing will be incredibly profitable: Amazon is practically iconic for their absolutely tiny margins across most of their history an
  • What's new? Getting the wrong pizza way later than expected is something my current pizzeria can do just fine.

  • by God of Lemmings ( 455435 ) on Friday June 24, 2016 @10:56PM (#52386519)
    Robots aren't free and they need health care (skilled maintenance) and sick days too (repair for breakdown)
  • If you're in the business of making a pizza you will likely acquire the toppings, and cut them, e.g. cutting mushrooms to small pieces, or slicing that New York sausage-like thing named after bell peppers. I assume it's faster to then drop the toppings on the pizza rather than load them in an array of toppings dispensers and catter to that ugly, oversized machine.

  • We are going to be the Amazon of food. [...] Just imagine Domino's without the labor component.

    I do not know about their pizzas, but at least their speech is disgusting.

  • Roses need bullshit. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by bmo ( 77928 ) on Friday June 24, 2016 @11:20PM (#52386587)

    But in this case, the roses are covered in bullshit.

    "She works for free."

    No, "she" doesn't. Anyone who says a piece of equipment "works for free" even if it doesn't have an operator most of the time is /lying/. Maintenance and setup costs can be a bitch. If you believe that machines are "free labor," you have no experience in manufacturing. They amplify the ability to make stuff (scaling up is more economical), but they're not free.

    The pie then "travels on a conveyor belt to human employees who add cheese and toppings.

    So the only problem solved here was the simplest, spreading sauce. Frozen pizza companies have solved the issue of automation, but it doesn't scale down. I'll get to that in the last paragraphs.

    Even the guy who tried making a burger-making-robot failed. It was basically a VC scam, which this sounds like.

    >Zynga

    Yeah... uh...

    >end of article
    >shells out for a hand-made pizza, because it's better.

    But of course, because bespoke pizzas are easier to make when the maker can /adapt/, unlike a machine, which must be retooled. Frozen pizzas, made entirely under automation, are "standardized" per the manufacturer. And that's what happens when you automate something that's hand-made, choices get reduced to a handful. You're not going to see a pizza come from these trucks with soppressata, as 80 percent (or more) of people /don't even know what it is/.

    I'm not saying this is impossible, but the fact is that a lot of people go to pizzerias because they can easily get special orders, because if you can't, frozen pizzas are less expensive and you don't have to leave home. Say what you will about cardboard and disappointment, but big pizza chains that rely on human help will still do special orders.

    "Any color, as long as it's black." - H. Ford

    --
    BMO

    • by Kjella ( 173770 )

      I'm not saying this is impossible, but the fact is that a lot of people go to pizzerias because they can easily get special orders, because if you can't, frozen pizzas are less expensive and you don't have to leave home. Say what you will about cardboard and disappointment, but big pizza chains that rely on human help will still do special orders.

      Of all the times I've eaten big chain pizza, whether it's with work or friends or family I don't remember anyone ordering a special. At most I seem to remember ordering a half-and-half, extra cheese on the edge, sour cream or salsa dip and such but they're all minor variations where if you've made a robot to handle the 20 pizzas on the menu, you'll easily make the variations too. At most they have a "pick your own toppings" pizza where you essentially make a pizza just from "extra" toppings. Really you can

  • Adam Martyn, who works at Stanford University, said he treats himself to the Lucky Bueno every two weeks. That's a spicy pie with roasted garlic, Calabrian chili and soppressata for $18.

    If you buy in bulk or regularly, dominos can deliver pizza for $10 a pizza. We do it at work all the time.

    $18 dollars is pretty pricey for one single pizza. If its made by robots, i want it to be CHEAPER than humans, otherwise whats the point?

    I guess you dont have to tip them, so there's that.

  • Maybe my local pizza shops are too small to use these but these robots use up way too much space for what they do. The robot that loads the pizza takes up a lot of floor space. And in the space for the robot to put the sauce on you could have a station that allows a person to make complete pizzas. Not every pizza shop is going to open up in a huge store. Real estate is a huge expense for them and they will want to minimize the amount of space they have to lease.

  • ... I already eat pizzas made by robots.

    http://imgur.com/5UUmFOz [imgur.com]

    Also: "[the robot] works for free..." Oh really? It never needs electricity? Or parts?

  • by sootman ( 158191 ) on Saturday June 25, 2016 @12:05AM (#52386779) Homepage Journal

    "Just imagine Domino's..."

    I'm not a big pizza snob, but even I think you're setting a pretty low bar there.

  • Frankly, in 50 years homes might not even be built with full kitchens anymore...

    Why? Because it will become so cheap and so easy to have robots make quality food and deliver it, people just won't bother to cook anymore.

    Some of you will laugh at that, and of course some people will keep full kitchens, but the space that they take up today might be cut in half for other uses once robot food delivery becomes normal.

    • "it will become so cheap and so easy to have robots make quality food and deliver it, people just won't bother to cook anymore."

      Exactly that.

      And it'll come in the form of pills and they will be delivered by flying cars.

      That's no news: we know that's happening since the 50's!

  • Anyone had any?
  • If they're trying to be the Amazon of something, they'll be screwy with the few humans involved in the process.

  • by Dahamma ( 304068 ) on Saturday June 25, 2016 @06:41PM (#52390271)

    Amazon. Duh. https://fresh.amazon.com/ [amazon.com]

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