In Brief
  • Together, robots and humans currently produce 288 pizzas an hour at Zume Pizza, and the company expects full automation by March 2017.
  • By offering full benefits, shares in the business, and tuition subsidies, the startup is able to assuage its employee fears about robot automation leading to job loss.

A collaborative effort

Robot automation is a rapidly rising trend in many major manufacturing areas, from cars to construction to clothing, and bots are also taking over customer service jobs, like retail assistant or even food deliverer. Now, one startup is putting robots somewhere relatively new: the kitchen.

Zume Pizza in Mountain View, California, is letting robots make their pizzas and reducing labor costs in the process. To be specific, Zume is having robots take over the tasks humans traditionally have difficulty doing. These robots spread sauce evenly and work the 426°C (800°F) oven, a workplace hazard for humans. The delivery-only company has also built a delivery van with a robot that can cook 56 pizzas en route to the customer, ensuring freshness.

The robots have allowed the startup to produce 288 pizzas an hour, and that’s with humans still contributing to the process. Zume expects full automation by March 2017.

Better eating and better business

Zume is but one of the many startups placing robots in the kitchen —robots are slicing noodles, putting together sandwiches, and even making burgers at restaurants worldwide — but what this company is doing differently is creating a technology-driven business model that expertly manages the job security fears brought on by robot automation.

The company works hard to ensure that none of the robot automation is at the expense of its employees. Granted, Zume does employ a small number of people (30 total), but those employees get the royal treatment: full benefits, shares in the business, and subsidies in taking coding, graphic design, or engineering courses.

“It’s not typical for somebody to be able to start at a fast food restaurant and get sponsorship to go to a coding academy,” says Julia Collins, cofounder and co-CEO of Zume to Business Insider. “The important thing is — for those who’ve chosen to be at the leading edge of automation, as we have — how can we think responsibly about our obligation to the people that come work for us?”