Robotics startup Picnic is putting a whole new meaning behind the words pizza “dough.” The food-focused company just raised an additional $5 million in seed funding to enhance its operations. Picnic first gained name-recognition thanks to its autonomous pizza assembly machine. The system made its rounds on social media when it launched in October and wowed many users.
Now, Picnic is hoping to expand beyond pizza making and create more robot-inspired food machines. According to a TechCrunch report, “The new funding will be used for product development, hiring, and marketing.”
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Led by capital firms Creative Ventures, Flying Fish Partners, and Vulcan Capital, the latest funding round was a huge success. The additional $5 million gives Picnic some flexibility moving forward.
The firm has already hired product engineer Kennard Nielsen as its VP of engineering. Notably, Nielsen has worked on big-name projects like Kindle Fire tablets, the Nike Fuelband, as well as Xbox and Doppler Labs’ HereOne. Picnic also hired Mike McLaughlin back in June to help round out its food and beverage expertise with his insider knowledge.
Rather than simply selling robots, Picnic utilizes a “robotics-as-a-service” model. Yes, the same type of business strategy that has been booming in Silicon Valley for the past few years. Essentially, the startup provides a restaurant with its pizza-making robot and the joint then rents it on a subscription basis. Picnic also provides its subscribers with maintenance services and updates to both the robot’s software and hardware.
To stay competitive, the startup has its bot priced based on how much pizza each restaurant plans to make with it. Regardless of the volume, the monthly subscription should add up to less than the cost of minimum-wage labor and food waste by human error.
Picnic’s automated pizza bot is capable of cranking out an impressive 180 18-inch pizzas every hour. As for smaller 12-inch pies, it can produce up to 300 an hour. While this certainly isn’t the first robot to make pizza (Digiorno has been using them for years) what makes it special is its small size. The bot can fit into just about any kitchen and would even warrant consideration in a food truck.
Interestingly enough, the bot doesn’t actually cook the pizzas that it makes. Instead, it assembles a perfect pie and leaves it on the line for a human worker to bake. Nonetheless, the system easily outpaces human assemblers while making pizzas with more accuracy and less wasted ingredients.
The pizza bot is currently being used at the Seattle Mariners’ T-Mobile Park by the facility’s Centerplate catering team. With its new cash injection, Picnic hopes that it will be able to get the system into more restaurants and food trucks in the coming year. It also plans to expand its robotics-as-a-service offerings to include more types of food production.
Check out Twitter user @jamescthorne’s video showing how the system works:
— James Thorne (@jamescthorne) October 1, 2019