Slice Factory

This Chicago Chain’s Expansion Plans Hinge on Pizza Robots

With 12 stores in the Chicago area, Slice Factory has its eye on nationwide growth with help from a robotic system called Pizzaiola.

  • Chicagoland’s Slice Factory will leverage Nala Robotics’ pizza-making system, called Pizzaiola, in its aggressive expansion plan.
  • Pizzaiola can prep and make Slice Factory’s popular 28″ jumbo slice as well as various Chicago-style stuffed pizzas along with pastas and wings.

Related: xRobotics’ xPizza Cube debuts at Missouri Valley College

Slice Factory has 12 locations in Chicagoland but wants to expand across the U.S.—and a pizza-making robot from Nala Robotics will help them do it.

Nala Robotics, an AI technology company in the culinary segment, has announced it will supply Slice Factory with a voice-controlled, autonomous chef called—appropriately enough—Pizzaiola. The robotic system can also make pasta, burgers, wings and salads.

Nala Robotics said it will custom-design and install Pizzaiola at Slice Factory’s newest locations to help fuel national expansion efforts. The pizza chain has laid out an aggressive expansion plan heavily leveraging Nala Robotics’ technology and automation expertise. The fully automated robot chef will cook Slice Factory’s popular jumbo slice and various Chicago-style stuffed pizzas while also serving up the chain’s pasta dishes and assortment of chicken wings.

Nala Robotics’ Pizzaiola system

“Our partnership with Slice Factory, the first of many in the pipeline, represents another important milestone for Nala Robotics and the adoption of our restaurant-as-a-service [RAAS] platform,” said Nala cofounder and CEO Ajay Sunkara. “Our custom solution will help Slice Factory expand production to meet rising demand for the jumbo slice craze it created in the Chicagoland area, plus offer a wide variety of food options to keep customers happy while also saving on labor costs.”

To ensure efficiencies, the robotic operating system monitors more than 1,200 parameters every microsecond, ranging from robot field of vision and food quality to point-of-sales, the company says. Once a pizza order is placed, Pizzaiola selects, presses and stretches the dough, adds the sauce, cheese and toppings, and then cooks, slices and boxes the pizza. Pizzaiola also will be able to fulfill online orders and individual jumbo slices that can be scheduled for pickup at the chain’s flagship Slice Thru drive-through within a few minutes of ordering, Nala Robotics says.

Slice Factory founder and president Dom DiDiana’s family moved from Naples, Italy, to Chicago in the mid-1990s and opened their first family-run Italian restaurant a few years later.

“We’re known for our jumbo pizzas and jumbo slices, and this partnership with Nala Robotics will help us improve production exponentially as we expand locations and service areas,” DiDiana said. “What’s really exciting is that we now have the capability to run fully autonomous pizzeria-style restaurants with lots of menu items, while keeping our family recipes consistent with the same great taste and exceptional food quality our customers have loved for many years.”

Pizzaiola can reportedly make up to 50 pizzas an hour in a wide variety of styles and with numerous different toppings. It can work with five dough types, four different sauces and 35 options for toppings and cheeses.

Monthly leasing options for Pizzaiola start at $7,000 per month. The company, based in Arlington Heights, Illinois, has been demonstrating its technology at three company-owned restaurants in Naperville, Illinois, under the Nala Restaurants Group name. These include: One Mean Chicken, a fried chicken concept; Surya Tiffins, a South Indian eatery; and Thai 76, a fast-food Thai canteen.