• Wed. Nov 30th, 2022

PizzaForno exhibits vending machine technology at RFDC | Franchise News

ByStephanie M. Akbar

Nov 18, 2022


Maybe it was the aroma of the pizza that drew a crowd of onlookers to the PizzaForno booth, or maybe it was the automated pizza oven baking pies at high speed.

One of 299 exhibitors at the annual Restaurant Finance and Development Conference in Las Vegas this week, PizzaForno demonstrated its vending machine technology which, with the tap of a digital screen, produces a freshly baked artisan pizza in about three minutes. Available 24/7, the model lets customers choose from a selection of unique toppings, pay with a credit card, and wait for the 12-inch boxed pizza to come out of the slot.

Co-founders Les Tomlin and Will Moyer were inspired by the French company SAS Adial, who introduced the technology of interactive pizzerias in France 14 years ago. The entrepreneurs bought the rights to bring the technology to North America, launching in Canada four years ago and in the United States earlier this year.

When customers order one of eight varieties of pies, the pizzas are robotically moved from refrigeration to the convection oven and baked. Customers can also select take-out pizzas to cook at home. Toppings range from traditional pepperoni to specialty choices such as honey and goat cheese. Each unit can hold 70 pre-made 12-inch pizzas.

“People are blown away, whether it’s a consumer or an operator,” Tomlin said of the feedback received. Startup cost per unit ranges from $145,000 to $155,000.

PizzaForno touts its ability to meet the challenges faced by traditional brick-and-mortar restaurants. As the restaurant industry continues to face labor shortages, “the fact that it is labor free, available 24/7 and that it only needs 65 to 80 square feet to operate with a very low cost model is huge advantages from a licensing perspective,” Tomlin said.

When asked how they market to those who are fed up with robotic food solutions, he said the number one challenge is convincing consumers it’s a safe option. Each unit is equipped with fail-safe technology to prevent the sale of products that do not meet quality standards.

“If the fridge temperature is above food safe handling, it will lock the machine and not sell pizza. If there is a problem with the oven, the machine will lock and not sell pizza” , said Tomlin. “Everything is digitally enabled, so the operator knows in real time by looking at their phone what is going on in this unit.”

PizzaForno’s vending machine technology can produce a cooked pizza in about three minutes.

Automated ovens can be found in a variety of locations, including hospitals, near bars, and convenience stores. Tomlin said one of their most popular places is on college campuses, especially between midnight and 4 a.m. The recent closure of a PizzaForno in Ann Arbor, Michigan, home to the University of Michigan, however, shows that there is still much to learn about the market potential for automated pizza makers.

Tim Epko and Adam Page, who opened the first PizzaForno in the United States when they brought a kiosk to Jackson, Michigan, in early 2021, decided to close the Ann Arbor unit after less than six month. In a statement to local news station WDIV-TV they said they planned to relocate PizzaForno, “taking into account the cost of rent, customer buying habits, competition, and proximity to foot traffic.”

PizzaForno has 51 operating locations and more than 100 additional units committed in the United States, with the first 15 US locations open in Michigan, Texas and Louisiana. Other automated pizza companies are also looking to expand in the United States and abroad. Robotic pizzeria Piestro announced a deal with 800 Degrees Pizza last year and begins a trial with the Capriotti’s sandwich franchise, while the largest Domino’s franchisee outside the United States, Australia-based Domino’s Pizza Enterprises, tests Picnic Works’ automated pizza assembly technology, from Berlin .

Read more: The first automated Pizza Hut is now open in Israel

The Sold Out Restaurant Finance and Development Conference, presented by Franchise Times sister publication, the Restaurant Finance Monitor, was held Nov. 14-16 at the Wynn Hotel in Las Vegas.

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