Melia Robinson/Business Insider
The kitchen at Zume Pizza looks more like a manufacturing plant than the back room of a restaurant. Robots with swinging appendages dress up pizza crusts with marinara sauce made from locally grown tomatoes and toppings as the pies make their way down the conveyor belt.
"We're a co-bot environment," says Julia Collins, cofounder and co-CEO of Zume Pizza .
At the Mountain View, California-based delivery startup, pizza-making robots and humans work together to make better pizza faster. By automating the kitchen, the Zume team claims they can fill orders quickly and accurately, and reduce delivery times to as little as 15 minutes.
While some humans are worried (for good reason) that robots will take away food industry jobs , Collins says critics can rest assured: No one who works at Zume risks being booted from work by robots.
"That is absolutely a promise that we make to our employees," Collins tells Business Insider.
@ajplus @ajplus Future story: Zume closes! No one can afford to buy pizza after losing jobs to automation
— jcrandolph (@JCRandolph) July 11, 2016 No way a robot could put the love and passion into a good pie. Not to mention taking away jobs. #Zume #BadIdea https://t.co/GSyoxlLxvj
— Justin Rush (@justin_devs) June 25, 2016 The kitchen at Zume, a delivery-only startup, is capable of churning out 288 pizzas an hour. But the bots can't do it alone — yet. Collins explains that Zume prioritized automating the parts of the pizza-making process that humans are bad at, like spreading sauce evenly or taking pizza dough off a wooden pallet. The company expects to reach full automation by March 2017.
When that happens, Zume says the transition will free up pizza chefs to learn new skills and take on different roles in technical support, engineering, or web design.
"What we want to do is actually let people have the opportunity to keep growing. I think where the fast food industry falls short is exactly that," Collins says. "It's not typical for somebody to be able to start at a fast food restaurant and get sponsorship to go to a coding academy."
Zume will also provide tuition subsidies for employees who want to take an English as a second language course (so they can work in hardware support) or attend graphic design school (so they can join the user-experience and user-interface web design team).
The company aims to serve all of the Bay Area with new kitchen hubs by 2018.