It takes skill and talent to craft the perfect pizza sauce. But smearing it on a pizza crust? That’s the kind of repetitive task that pretty much anyone can learn. So why not automate it? That’s the plan at Donatos, where a new saucing machine is freeing up employees for more challenging tasks.

According to Franchise Times, Donatos has been using the Smart Saucer in 15 stores—including 11 company-owned locations and four franchise operations—since 2020. The machine was developed by Agápe Automation, a company owned by Donatos founder Jim Grote’s family.

The machine’s footprint, described as “about the size of a shoebox,” draws pizza sauce from a reservoir and dispenses it onto the pizza crust, gauging the total weight to ensure consistency from pizza to pizza.

“It really speaks to our intention of making the kitchen a better place and the job a better job,” Donatos COO Craig Turner told Franchise Times.

The company is reportedly planning to add the Smart Saucer to operations at 40 more company-owned stores in 2023. Franchisees will also have the option to use it.

“I think everybody is really excited about it,” Dave Parsons, Donatos’ communication manager, said in the Franchise Times interview.” He added that employee training is sped up “because associates don’t need to train on sauce but can train more on toppings or on other customer-facing roles. The focus is, how can we put people in better spots?”

Jim Grote founded Donatos in 1963 in Columbus, Ohio, and his daughter, Jane Grote Abell, now serves as the company’s chairwoman. Grote has always explored the cutting edge of mechanical innovations for the pizza kitchen: He invented the Peppamatic, a pepperoni slicer that’s now commonly used in the frozen-pizza segment.

Grote collaborated with then-high schooler Hayden Frea, now a college student and aspiring engineer, to create the first Smart Saucer prototype for Agápe Automation, a company that’s part of the Edge Innovation Hub, a Grote family-owned company headquartered in Gahanna, Ohio. According to the Edge Innovation Hub website, Agápe Automation was created “to build connected, autonomous and data-rich solutions for smart kitchens of the future.”

Agápe Automation’s team is also developing machines that can work with pepperoni, cheese and dough. “The sky’s the limit for the idea of smart machines and smart software,” Turner told Franchise Times.