&pizza partners with Zume on mobile kitchens

The fast-casual pizza chain is currently leasing three custom-fitted trucks from Zume, with plans to expand the partnership.
Photograph courtesy of &Pizza

Tech-forward concept &pizza is making and selling pizzas via three “forward mobile kitchen” trucks owned by Zume, marking the beginning of a strategic partnership between the Washington, D.C.-based pizza company and the well-capitalized tech outfit, the companies announced Thursday.

&pizza, which was 36 units, is testing the mobile kitchens in three scenarios in the greater Washington, D.C., area: at events; in prospective &pizza locations; and on-site in advance of a new store opening, &pizza President Andy Hooper told Restaurant Business.

The three trucks are just the beginning of the partnership, Hooper said, adding that &pizza plans a “significant increase” that will likely expand to several dozen mobile kitchens.

“&pizza is a brand that’s all about pushing the boundaries of what we feel like we can do in the space,” he said. “Zume seemed like an obvious choice. They’d been playing in the pizza space. … It potentially means &pizza can do things that other brands have been unable to do: find lower-upfront capital ways to penetrate new markets and unlock sub-elements of a market.”

&pizza leases the trucks from Zume for “less than a 10th of the cost of a physical pizza shop,” Hooper said.

“Throughput and output is commensurate with a pizza shop,” Hooper said. “The fact that we could do the same volume of pizza out of the truck at a peak hour that we could do at a pizza shop means there are significant upsides. … That’s a huge win for us to enter into a market aggressively and quickly.”

The trucks are customized to include &pizza’s preferred impinger oven as well as a kitchen layout that maximizes workflow. Two to three employees work inside the truck making pizzas, while a “brand ambassador” staffs the truck’s exterior to take orders and help with mobile orders, he said.

Mountain View, Calif.-based Zume (previously known as Zume Pizza), which completed a $375 million funding round last November, developed technology to use robots, employees and the custom-designed trucks to deliver pizzas. Zume also operates a sustainable-packaging business.

“We started as a food company,” CEO Alex Garden told RB. “We’re a food company that happens to use a lot of technology. The world is full of tech companies that aren’t connected to the challenges restaurants have.”

Early tests of &pizza being sold from the Zume trucks show “the revenue yield per square foot is breathtaking,” Garden said.

Zume is currently in discussions with other potential restaurant partners, he said. He declined to name specific companies.

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