Pizza Hut and Toyota this week announced a “mobile pizza factory” that includes a robotic arm for making oven-hot pizza while on the road to a customer’s doorstep.
The Tundra PIE Pro pizza-making truck was introduced at Toyota’s 2018 Specialty Equipment Market Association Show, and features a truck bed converted into the “virtual pizza factory on wheels. The system, which Pizza Hut calls “The Kitchen” includes a refrigerator, a pair of computer-guided robotic arms, and a portable conveyor oven. The truck and its components are powered by a hydrogen fuel-cell electric powertrain, the companies said in a press statement.
From start to finish, the pizza-making process will take between six and seven minutes, and allows Pizza Hut to “expand its delivery radius without compromising the quality of the pizza, allowing a broader base of customers to have oven-hot Pizza Hut pizza delivered to their doorstep.”
Automated cooking, slicing and boxing via robot arms
When a pizza is ordered, the first of two robotic arms opens the refrigerator and removes the selected pizza, places it on the oven conveyor, and returns to close the refrigerator door. The pizza is then sent through a high-speed, ventless oven. On the other side of the conveyor, “a second robotic arm removes the finished pizza, places it on a cutting board, divides it into six identical slices, boxes it up, and delivers it to the customer.” It was unclear whether the truck would be moving or stationary during the pizza-making process. Robotics Business Review has reached out to Pizza Hut for clarification, but has not yet heard back from them.
“We are constantly focused on evolving our processes and systems through improvements and innovations that allow our team members and drivers to better serve our customers,” said Nicolas Burquier, Chief Customer and Operations Officer, Pizza Hut, U.S. “We are exploring next-generation solutions and automation to support and streamline our delivery business in the future. The Tundra PIE Pro and our work with Toyota are only helping accelerate our commitment to transform both the team member and the customer experience at Pizza Hut.”
The companies said they converted a Tundra SR5 into the pizza-making truck by tearing it down to a bare rolling chassis, then reassembling it from the ground up. A conventional gasoline-powered drivetrain was removed and replaced with the fuel-cell electric power unit, adapted from the Toyota Mirai.
“Nothing tastes better than a fresh Pizza Hut pizza straight out of the oven,” said Marianne Radley, Chief Brand Officer, Pizza Hut. “The Tundra PIE Pro brings to life our passion for innovation not just on our menu but in digital and delivery in order to provide the best possible customer experience.”
The process for making or finishing a pizza is similar to Zume Pizza, which uses robots to prepare pizzas in a kitchen, partially preparing them and then finish cooking the pies in a delivery vehicle. In June, the company announced a new president and was looking to expand operations beyond Silicon Valley.
Pizza Hut did not indicate when or where the Tundra PIE Pro trucks would be deployed. Other pizza-related robot efforts include French startup EKIM, which also uses robotic arms to cook pizza, and Domino’s Pizza, which was testing pizza delivery drones in New Zealand.