Donatos Pizza is developing an automated pizza vending machine.
The 176-unit pizza chain, along with sister companies Agape Automation and Grote Co., is partnering with robotics company Appetronix to create the fully autonomous restaurant. The first unit will open in Donatos’ hometown of Columbus, Ohio, though the chain did not say when.
The companies said the state-of-the-art machine will improve quality, service and accuracy and will make it easy for customers to order Donatos pizza. The machine will also feature artificial intelligence that can do things like personalize recommendations and predict when maintenance will be needed.
"We are thrilled to be working with Appetronix to deliver an intuitive, automated system to create our pizza, accessible to people everywhere,” said Donatos founder Jim Grote. “Utilizing technology to provide a better customer experience through improved speed and product consistency has been a focus of mine since the first Donatos restaurant opened."
The chain is known for its generously topped Edge to Edge pizzas. In addition to its 176 brick-and-mortars, its pies are sold in 273 Red Robin restaurants and it has about 10 outlets in sports and entertainment venues.
Grote also founded Agape Automation, a maker of internet-connected pizza-making devices, and Grote Co., a foodservice equipment manufacturer. Those companies will co-develop Donatos’ vending machine with Appetronix.
"We are truly honored to partner with the Grote family and contribute to the future of one of the most iconic pizza brands in the United States,” said Appetronix co-founder and CEO Nipun Sharma in a statement. Appetronix was formerly known as SJW Robotics.
Toronto-based Appetronix has a fully automated restaurant called RoWok, a proprietary automated wok system.
Pizza is viewed as a good candidate for automation and has given rise to a number of robotic pizza companies and concepts, including Picnic, Piestro and Stellar Pizza. However, their success has been mixed: Earlier entrants like Zume Pizza and Basil Street Pizza have shut down, and Picnic went through layoffs earlier this year.
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