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Oct 19, 2016

Pizza Roboto

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Two articles came across my screens here at the NPD Global Foodservice Blog Mountain Redoubt.  The first is another piece of evidence that living in Mountain View, CA shifts you perceptibly into the future (one of my Millennial focus group witnessed a confused Google self-driving car trying to deal with California’s self-righteous pedestrians…and the car became paralyzed). The other articles build on the first. 

So, here’s this article about robotic pizza that is par-baked and finished, cut, and boxed in the delivery truck.  And then there’s this news article from the Buckeye State about using 3-D printers to assemble pizzas. And then there’s the news about  ordering pizza by chat bot. 

BTW, the chat bot thing is so new that I had to explain it to my usually-reliable Millennial focus group.  I think "nonplussed" is the word to describe them in that situation. SJ Perlman might have said “slack jawed.”

Tech developers think a lot about pizza, that’s for sure.  

That’s because their parents in the 80’s and early 90’s raised them on delivered pizza.  CREST® foodservice market research shows that the story of the U.S. foodservice business in the ’80’s was basically the story of restaurant pizza consumed in the home. `Women surged into the work force, creating more household income and less time for food prep and shopping.  Domino’s introduced delivery to much of the U.S.  Little Caesar’s grew like crazy with take-away pizza.  Papa John’s came on the U.S. scene a little later.

Pizza so dominated the trends that our long time, insightful, U.S. foodservice market analyst, Harry Balzer, would intone to food companies in the 80's, “If you want your product to grow, put it on pizza.” Chicken pizza?  Barbecue pizza?  Ham and pineapple pizza?  Jalapeño pizza?  All fantastic.  None existed in the ’70’s.  Thanks Harry. 

Now, delivery was and still is dominated by (1) pizza and (2) restaurant chains.  Recent development from aggregator delivery services has created a big shift in the market. This shift has made independents and non-pizza places much more competitive. Much of the recent growth in delivery has come from non-pizza places.  But these new technologies are going to add a new capital bar that will be tough for independents to get over.

OK, now visualize this…

3-D pizza printers with robotic ovens/cutters/boxers inside self-driving delivery vans.  And just like the Uber patrons and folks waiting for their burritos via drone, bunches of consumers standing curbside, their phones face-up on their palms and their eyes shifting from the screen to the horizon looking for the robot within the robot within the robot. Sign me up. 


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