Zume Pizza is replacing human chefs with robots, slashing labor costs in half, and reinvesting those savings into higher-quality ingredients to carve out a portion of the $40 billion annual U.S. pizza business.
"What we are doing is leveraging the power of this evolution of automation, these intelligent robots, to put better food on people's tables," said Julia Collins, the company's co-founder and co-CEO.
Zume, which is delivery-only, employs far fewer workers than the average pizza chain, but the employees it does hire — which include sous chefs and software engineers — get full benefits, education subsidies and shares in the business. The company — which made its first hire on Sept. 8, 2015 — has never had an employee quit, which is unusual in the restaurant business, said Collins.
"We're a co-bot situation," said Collins. "There are humans and robots collaborating to make better food, to make more fulfilling jobs and to make a more stable working environment for the folks that are working with us."
Zume's robots are manufactured by global manufacturing companyABB — whose robots are typically used in large manufacturing settings — and integrated with the help of Silicon Valley software company L2F.
"We have co-developed the entire pizza production process that is robot-enabled," said Collins. "The individual pieces of equipment come from these large global manufacturers, but the integration of those robots within our ecosystem is something that we have designed and that we actually have the intellectual property on."
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