Not surprisingly, the biggest challenge was building a hygienic machine. "All of the parts come in contact with the elements," Torghele said. "We had to find technical solutions to guarantee" that the food would be safe.
The patented solutions include a dough mixer that prevents accumulation of material in its drum and in adjoining metering chambers. "He thought of everything," Rammers said. "If the machine doesn't sell a pizza for 24 hours, the timer tells it to mix the dough, and then the machine throws it away in a trash bin."
Like most current day vending machines, the Let's Pizza is Internet-enabled. Using a microcontroller and a multitude of specialized software algorithms, it can read information from its 40 onboard sensors and communicate with the outside world. "When it's almost empty, the machine sends a signal to your phone or your laptop that it needs to be refilled," Rammers said. Each machine holds enough ingredients for about 200 pizzas.
The machine has been available in Europe since 2009. A1 Concepts will set up its first US Let's Pizza in Atlanta in late August. The company is working on a plan for machines to be assembled by an American partner.
Competing machines have used microwaves to heat up frozen pizzas, but Rammers said he wouldn't be surprised if the Let's Pizza's success spawns imitators. "Other people are sure to try to build one after they see this. But right now, this is the only one of its kind."
Funny how history repeats itself. Back around the mid '80's, I purchased stock in a company called "American Pizza", ticker symbol was APIZ. They were going to have a pizza vending machine next to every Coke and Pepsi machine in the country. I eventually wrote off that $500 when they went bust.
I obviously thought it was a great idea, but it didn't fly. I hope the new company makes it, because I love pizza. Anything to make easier access to one of my favorite foods is a good thing!
Even though I'm not sure you'd ever convince me to buy pizza from a vending machine, no matter how fresh, this is very cool. I imagine it will sell like hot cakes in dorm rooms and on street locations near downtown bars for a late night snack. Reminds me of a machine I wrote about a few years ago called Moobella that did something similar for ice cream. I'm interested to hear what our readers have to say.
I'm with you, Beth - while I am very impressed with the concept and design, I think the marketing challenge for them would be expectation and reaching their niche audience. If I am going to buy pizza (a treat that I only do occasionally) the last place I would purchase it would be a vending machine. But I agree, for college kids and for folks who want a quick late night snack, it does sound perfect.
It would be intersting to know how where they are in Europe and how well they've done since 2009.
I agree that dorms are a good place for this. And, agreed, that these wouldn't do well in neighbourhoods in NY and San Francisco like Little Italy and North Beach. But, it's a good idea for a cheap, quick, freshly made late night snack on the way home from work.
I'd love to see how tamper proof it is. Since the Tylenol scandal in the 80's, everything has to be tamper-proof in the US.
Tamper-proof is a great point; imagine all those hungry people smelling pizza all the time. Whatever the state-of-the-art is for security in standalone food vending machines, this machine probably needs even tighter controls.
Great slideshow! It would be great if the vending machine had some kind of window so that you could watch the pizza being made. Besides the curiosity factor (I can imagine crowds of people gathering around to watch), it would help customers to understand that this isn't just a frozen pizza being heated up in a microwave. And, who knows, maybe watching the machine will even inspire future engineers.
That being said, as a native Chicagoan, I have to point out that this will never compete with deep-dish pizza.
Very interesting pizza vending machine and video. I was wondering if the pizza will be more like what we have in America vs Italy. My daughter said the pizza she had in Italy was different from the US.
"fresh" pizza in 3 minutes when the ingredients have sat for week? Also, pizza takes 20 minutes to bake properly in a clay oven, not IR. This is disgusting.
It might work on college campus with the drunk college kids late at night who don't care what they eat or even compete with frozen pizzas, but come on, who actually eats a frozen or chain-store made pizza? None of this is pizza in the sense. Only a true hand-made pizza with fresh ingredients and baked properly is pizza, the rest are nothing more than cardboard with ketchup!
I'm not much of a pizza fan, but if I eat it it's got to be fresh. So I agree with your comments about cardboard-tasting frozen pizza. Except lots of people are buying and eating frozen pizza, based on the doubling and tripling of that section in all my local grocery stores' freezer sections over the last few years.
Seems like I remember my wife telling me it took 7 minutes in their oven in a take it/bake it store. That was at 700 degrees. So 13 minutes might not be out of line for the whole process.
If you can flour the drum it doesn't stick anywhere near so much, so that may be how they resolve the stickiness issue.
If you heat anything for 7-10 minutes at 700 degrees, it may not be appealing, but there are going to be darn few germs left alive. Most restaurant food poisoning comes from uncooked food or dirty humans handling it.
Tony Soprano would definitely not approve and this is definitely not an option for city scapes like NYC where pizza places (and good pizza places at that) exist on nearly every corner. Interesting, though, from mechanical technology standpoint. There's a lot at play here, from the infrared oven to the machine that flattens the dough and applies the sauce (that reminded me of 3D printing technology) to a whole array of sensors.
I also remember from the Moobella piece, that there is a big maintenance aspect to these machines. Human hands may not be used to make the food or touch the ingredients, but someone has to clean these things and keep them disinfected. That's a challenge in itself.
I agree this is interesting from a mechanical POV, Beth. But I don't believe anyone can prepare a decent pizza in three minutes. Pizza needs a decent oven and a decent amount of time for baking. The pizza at the end of the slide show does not look so wonderful. Somethings can't be quick -- or we would still be consuming Fizzies and using straws that flavor milk to chocolate or strawberry.
We just love vending machines. Look at the gumball and sticker machines.They exist for 50-80 years.Look at the success of Redbox! What was wrong with Blockbusters? I actually preferred Blockbusters.But we need vending machines.It is in genes.LOL. As far as pizza goes , unless you go to "classic" Italian run pizzerias in Chicago , or New York , you don't really know what a real pizza is. All the others are pretty much the same , although some have really nasty crust and sauces.Other than that there is not much to a pizza.I have many Italian friends, so there are no chances for me to taste a pizza from a new machine.I also have very serious doubts about hygene....but after seeing an inside of some food plants ,I think that this one can be cleaner.Let me know when you try it.
This is a great idea and application. I could see these being located next to the Redbox machines that seem to be in every shopping plaza all of a sudden. You could get a movie and a pizza any time you want.
really, this is the best thing ive heard about in a long time.
i do like the idea of a window so you can see it being made, though. about ten years ago, i was at a Kinko's that had a coffee vending machine. you selected what you wanted, and in a window, you saw it grind whole coffee beans, dump in onto a filter that was part of a large roll, and then hot water poured right through it into your cup at the bottom. i never would have known this thing was brewing fresh-gound coffee, id have guessed it was instant. it was totally worth it just for the experience, but it was good coffee tooo.
It's a pretty interesting machine and there are certainly some airports that I've been to where this would have been a great option. There seems to be a fair amount of waste, though, since each item is individually wrapped.
My thoughts exactly. You put one of these things in a dorm lobby, or better still, each dorm floor and you will make back your investment is a heartbeat. As long as it is maintained properly; i.e. refilled, cleaned, repaired, etc .on a regular basis, you will have a real winner. I have no idea as to the most popular pizzas but I suspect cheese, pepperoni and veggie pizzas are the most often purchased. At 2:00 A.M. in the morning with a mechanics final at 8:00, you can bet those all-nighters will at least investigate the possibilities. Also, how about laundry mats, hospital waiting rooms, bus stations, train stations? I can think of several places that would be good candidates for machines such as this. Any place where a person has to wait would be a great candidate. The only downer-we have such a lawless country there would be damage and repairs necessary so the selection of location would be critical to staying in business.
I saw a similar machine called Wonder Pizza a few years ago. It was a somewhat sleeker looking and had a smaller footprint. We even were given sample freshly made pizzas to eat at a demo. The taste was about the same as a frozen pizza. Not especially good for bad but novelty of a hot fresh pizza in a couple of minutes was the concept. No match for a pizzeria pizza. Initial cost seemed high and there was no leasing arrangement. The company provided all raw ingredients weekly and maintained the machine for a fee. We liked the idea and planned to sell the pizza on at cost to employees. Our management didn't go for it in the end. The biggest design problem was the preparation time. It's OK if one to three people queue up for pizza. The last person gets their pizza in 7.5 minutes later and that's acceptable in my opinion. When 5 or 10 people are queued up its a different story. I think name brand high quality frozen pizza kept in an appropriate storage/display unit with a nearby bank of specialized preprogrammed microwave (with browning elements or whatever) would cost the same and solve the production and wait time issue in the same footprint with a lower initial cost, much much lower maintenence fees, lower operating costs and equivalent food cost.
Excellent idea Dave! "Cook" it in the container the eggs are served in and used prepackaged whole eggs, egg whites or egg beaters. Santition issues always loom large but with good design it can be minimized. Fabulous! When do we start our market research?
Really, good frozen pizza can be done much quiker, and it comes out quite good. The secret is that after the thawing and heating in the microwave oven, it has to have the bottom heated for a short while on an oild griddle surface. Just enough to brown the bottom a bit. The hard part is even defrosting and thawing in the microwave oven. That takes some effort. But the heating the bottom makes such a great improvement that it can't be left out.
So if somebody uses my idea they do need to give me credit for it. And some free pizza. Royalty payments are negotiable.
I agree this would be a killer app for college campuses but I hope they have a thorough maintenance schedule. Definitely not as clean of an environment inside compared to most vending machines especially if college students keep it running all night.
Wow! What will the Italians come up with next? Painting on ceilings? Who knows? But pizza on demand sounds great, except...
1. Sticky things like this tend to clog up stuff. Just ask the guys who developed the glue machines for ICs.
2. Bugs! Always with the bugs! How do you keep the little critters out of the system without making them part of the protein package?
3. Where, other than college dorms, can you place these? Do you really want to get out of your easy chair, lug your overweight bottom down to the machine, wait 15 minutes and get your small pizza? Or do you just want to stay with your TV, call Jabba the Pizza Hutt, and have it delivered to your door!
4. The size must really be small to fit into this environment. Since size matters when it comes to cost, is it really worth it?
I bet on a Navy ship, it would sell like French fries! I would have camped out in front of it!
I was thinking it was a good idea until I got to #1 and #2 of your post, Warren. I would think that those things would be a maintenance nightmare. In addition, how do you contend with spoilage? It can mix the dough and toss it after 24 hours, but what about everything else. It's not like the toppings and all have a finite life that can be calculated.
Somehow I don't think the denizens of college dorms are the most discerning consumers of pizza in the world. With the complexity, maintenance and hygenic issues I have to admire the engineering challenge, but I'll stick to my take-and-bake.
Actually college students SHOULD be very good pizza judges since they probably consume more pizza per year than any other species. My guess is after a few beers they would tend to pick up a piece off the floor and eat it. After all the alcohol in the beer should kill the germs.
Where else etc? My first thought was an Army barracks. I think your point about bugs is the key issue. The day after the pizza vendor is installed is the first day a lawsuit will be filed for food poisoning. Cleanliness will always trump anything when it comes to preparing and serving food.
Of course, the first thing I thought about was spoilage, insects and sanitation. Well, I guess that's a lot of things. But if the ingredients were in single serve containers, this could be mitigated.
I agree with Chris PE's comment about vending machines being in our blood! I remember a vending machine that would actually make a little blow-molded figure right in front of your eyes! Amazing! I still remember the aroma of the warm, waxy plastic they used.
Of all places to see an update, there was a thread last week on Reddit that had people from around the world talking about the "Let's Pizza" machine. Apparently there are some machines in the USA (I think they said at an amusement park) but most of the feedback was from Europe.
I'd post a link, but I don't want my monitored web history at work to show that I'm browing Reddit during the day.... :)
I have been expecting this type of thing for awhile. Engineers are driven, from the first shovel on, to find ways to ease/eliminate menial tasks. I have noticed fastfood places are seeing an increase in more automated devices.
How soon will we see a burger/fry/drink combo packaged to your order all by machine?
Will you order it from your phone and pick it up in 3-5 minutes?
Will this, to a degree, impact the traditional fast food vendors?
Human nature stives in this direction anyway but with the beneficent govt making every effort to increase the cost of employing real people this will accelerate. IMO.
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