By Charlie Pogacar

Moto Pizza, one of Seattle’s hottest restaurants, recently opened its third brick-and-mortar location in the Belltown neighborhood of the city. Aside from offering some of Seattle’s most adventurous pies, the Belltown location is notable in that it features a pizza-making machine created by robotics startup Picnic.

Co-owner Lee Kindell told Eater Seattle that the robot is a necessity. He said the robot will help ensure the new store can open five days a week and, eventually, every day. Like many pizzerias, Moto has been hampered by a dearth of available kitchen talent. Unlike some pizzerias, Moto sees nearly unprecedented demand.

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The original Moto Pizza opened in West Seattle in 2021 when Kindell and his partner, Nancy Gambin—then hostel owners—were looking for a pandemic pivot. Moto’s unique menu was created by Kindell, a Filipino American who was an amateur pizza maker during his days running a hostel. His culinary inspiration is all across the board. According to the brand’s website, Moto’s pizza is “a delightfully odd mix of Detroit, New York, Roman and Filipino goodness.”

Even prior to opening, Moto received hype from food critics. On its very first day of business in 2021, the West Seattle Moto drew crowds that snaked out the door and around the block. To try to keep up with demand, Kindell soon rolled out time slots that could be reserved online up to a month in advance. When those began to quickly sell out, pizza lovers were then able to reserve spots up to three months ahead of time.

This photo shows a Detroit-style pizza with various toppings and drizzles and a very crispy outside crust.

“People were coming from Everett, from North Bend, from Tacoma,” Kindell told Eater Seattle in April 2023. “They were coming from all friggin’ over. It was the most insane thing. They’re like, ‘You won’t believe how far I drove.’ At first, I was like, ‘No, you didn’t come that far. You passed 100 pizza places.’”

Considering that type of demand, it’s no wonder operators like Kindell are turning to technology like the Picnic Pizza Station, an automated machine that Picnic’s website says can churn out 130 oven-ready pizzas in an hour. Once the robot tops the pies, Kindell intends to have team members slip the pies into the oven to be finished. In other words, the pizza-making robot will supplement worker productivity rather than replace it. If anything, he thinks the robot will help increase quality and consistency.

“Some of the greatest cars ever made…are crafted in factories,” Kindell told Eater Seattle. “I think the same thing can happen with food, if that intention is there, and that kind of attention to craftsmanship. You can utilize these tools and technology to create something really fantastic.”

Charlie Pogacar is PMQ’s senior editor.

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