- Nala Robotics this week debuted a fully automated pizza-making system, called Pizzaiola, that can make a lot more than pizza without any human assistance.
- Pizzaiola responds to voice orders at the point-of-sale and can learn an “infinite” number of recipes, the company said.
Robotics hasn’t entered the “Blade Runner” age just yet, but Nala Robotics has taken the foodservice industry one step closer to Jane’s high-tech kitchen in “The Jetsons” with a new system unveiled this week.
Nala Robotics, headquartered in Arlington Heights, Illinois, now offers Pizzaiola, a “fully automated, multi-cuisine” kitchen powered by a robotic chef that can make everything on the menu, all within a 12’x12’ space. According to a company press release, Pizzaiola provides “a complete solution for restaurateurs to easily customize a pizzeria-style eatery with expanded menu items such as pasta, salads, burgers and wings, among other options.” And the company says there is virtually no limit to the number of recipes the system can learn.
But let’s answer your big question first: How much does it cost? Monthly leasing options for Pizzaiola start at $7,000 per month, the company said.
Nala Robotics opened One Mean Chicken last year in Naperville, Illinois, dishing up wings and sauces, tenders, sandwiches, fries, tater tots and cole slaw. The company also operates Surya Tiffins, a South Indian eatery, and Thai76, a Thai food spot. All three restaurants operate in Naperville’s Mall of India, and all three are fully automated, although each has one human employee.
Pizzaiola represents Nala Robotics’ move into the lucrative, highly competitive pizza industry. According to the company, the automated kitchen system has “natural language processing features” and can understand and respond to voice menu orders at the point-of-sale or operational commands in the kitchen, speeding up the order fulfillment process and improving productivity. “Additionally, more than 1,200 parameters are checked every microsecond, ranging from robot field of vision and food quality to point-of-sales, ensuring safety and enhanced productivity,” the company said.
Ajay Sunkara, Nala Robotics’ co-founder and CEO, said Pizzaiola can cook up to 50 pizzas an hour in “an endless array of customized choices and styles, from Chicago to Neapolitan and everything in between.”
“Most importantly,” he added, “our model allows kitchens to seamlessly add friers, grills and other food-making and prep stations within the same 144-square foot area to offer additional menu items, such as fries, bowls, burgers, wings, salads, pasta and more.”
Restaurateurs can even choose from a variety of pizza ovens, including conveyor-style and brick ovens, while adding pasta and salad stations.
Pizzaiola works with five dough types, four varieties of sauces and 35 options for toppings and cheeses. No humans are involved in the pizza-making process; instead, the system’s AI-based robotic arms select and press the dough, add the sauce, cheese and toppings, and bake, slice and box the pizzas in sizes ranging between 8 and 18 inches.
“Nala Robotics’ machine-learning technology enables Pizzaiola to cook infinite recipes replicated with exact precision anytime, anywhere,” the press release states. For on-premise ordering, the system uses kiosks for retrieving orders, or restaurateurs can set up ghost kitchens for online ordering and delivery (although Nala Robotics doesn’t provide delivery bots).
“After the pandemic, there’s a new world right now,” Sunkara told RestaurantDive at the recent National Restaurant Association Show in Chicago. “Let’s talk about hygiene. Let’s talk about the labor shortage. Let’s talk about staff not showing up at all because of health issues right now. The best part of [robots] is consistency. You don’t have to do training. It always does the same thing.”
In the press release, Sunkara said the Pizzaiola platform lets restaurants “serve a variety of popular dishes beyond pizza that will increase revenue per square foot [and] helps fill employment gaps associated with brick-and-mortar establishments. Our own analysis has shown that Pizzaiola can provide the same output as two full-time workers, plus it’s capable of working 24-7-365, while yielding a solid return on investment in less than two years.”