The Seattle-based food tech company Picnic is in the process of utilizing AI to create pizzas for their customers. The deep learning algorithms used by Picnic are capable of running a pizza production line with very little oversight, analyzing the pizza at different stages with a computer-vision system.
Picnic was once called Vivid Robotics and the company has created what it dubs the first every all-purpose, automated system designed for the creation of food in the hospitality and foodservice sectors. According to TechXplore, the system is integrated with an app that customers can download and order pizzas with, customizing their toppings. The orders are given directly to the system, and the AI can oversee the creation of up to 300 12-inch or 180 18-inch pizzas every hour.
As reported by TechXplore, although the current version of the pizza production AI is just a prototype, the company expects that it will be able to create industry-ready versions of their product by the end of 2020. Picnic currently has clients lining up for their production run. The CEO of Picnic, Clayton Wood, explained that Picnic’s pizza system should cut down on labor-intensive and repetitious work, as it only requires one worker to place the dough onto the assembly line and to occasionally refill the toppings.
As many restaurants shift from dine-in operations to take-out, more food needs to be produced in a short amount of time. People are frequently frustrated and upset if their pizza takes much longer than 30 minutes. Wood thinks that Picnic can help pizza places cope with high-demand and a staffing shortage that are both creating a “great deal of stress”.
The vice president of sales at CHD Expert, a research company, Charles Chuman explained to Techxplore that there were two major factors driving the labor shortage in the food industry. One factor is the immigration constraints pushed forward by the Trump administration. The other factor is the general disruption of traditional restaurants by catering, online ordering and delivery, robotics, and AI.
Pizza itself is experiencing a partial decline in popularity in recent years as new low-carb diets have become popular and access to more diverse cuisines has expanded. While the pizza market definitely isn’t going away anytime soon, Chuman explained that the pizza industry isn’t seeing the kind of rapid growth that it was a decade ago.
Picnic has acknowledged the changing landscape of food and it is currently aiming to expand its system of automated food production out into other kinds of meals. Picnic wants to start the automated production of various pasta bowls, salads, and Mexican food using their AI-driven system.
“We think that when they’re delivering consistent, high-quality product, they’ll see increased demand for the product, as well as the savings from food waste,” explained Wood to TechXplore.
Picnic is intending to operate and upgrade their AI-driven food production system for no upfront cost, instead- charging clients a monthly fee that scales depending on the complexity of the operation. Wood expects clients to be attracted by the ease of producing constantly high-quality items.
Chuman predicts that as food production and delivery becomes quicker and easier thanks to automated systems, restaurants will need to innovate and offer different experiences or services in order to get customers to dine-in.
Picnic is far from the only company investigating how AI can be used to transform the landscape of food production and delivery. Companies like Instacart use machine-learning to predict the availability of groceries in real-time, while the start-up Sure aims to help customers decide what kind of food they should have when eating out at night. Companies like Gastrograph AI are even doing research on customer’s tastes to try and determine what kind of food and beverages they will like. Finally, companies like the Japanese start-up Calbee are using artificial intelligence to combat food waste and extend the lifespan of their products.
As AI becomes more ubiquitous and versatile, the myriad of ways it will transform the food industry will expand as well.