A $7B spice deal. Walmart's mushroom farms. AI designers.
Rev your engines
Zume, a Palo Alto pizza delivery startup that uses robots to cook pizzas inside delivery vehicles en route to shoppers’ homes, recently announced plans to focus more on robots and less on pizza.
It’s partnering with appliance maker Welbilt to adapt its robotic technology to different food products — Zume’s CEO cited coffee, frozen yogurt, and steamed buns as possibilities — and provide it to restaurants as a service.
Zume has raised $70M and patented its truck-based kitchens, below.
Cooking food while driving to consumers’ homes offers a few advantages, beyond the novelty factor:
The food arrives warm and freshly baked
Restaurants can reduce their reliance on chemical stabilizers used to preserve food
Delivery trucks don’t have to drive back to the restaurant to fulfill new orders
It also raises the possibility of personalization. If food is crafted by robot hands connected to the internet, why couldn’t restaurants let each user choose the shape, size, and design of their food?
For example, 3D pizza printer startup BeeHex (which is not on wheels — yet) shows us how this could work. BeeHex envisioned a mobile app that would let users personalize the shape, toppings, and amounts of sauce and cheese on their pizzas, which would then be assembled by the printer.
And one of the world’s fastest growing cafe chains, Wheelys, competes with Starbucks by relying on IoT-connected, mobile coffee kiosks on bikes.
And it’s not just hot food. Other startups and retailers are imagining new ways to squeeze value out of delivery trucks.
Recently, Walmart applied for a patent on delivery trucks filled with mobile manufacturing systems to create or customize products while driving.
The patent notes the trucks could hold 3D printers, sewing machines, embossing machines, and even “live plants to be harvested… e.g. tomato plant, mushroom farm, herbs, etc.”
The system would also use customer data to predict who might order what and route its trucks accordingly, supporting faster deliveries of personalized items.
Today, these mobile kitchens and roving factories still require human drivers. But in 10 years, that may no longer be the case.
By combining self-driving trucks with automated manufacturing systems, the retailers and restaurants of the future could significantly reduce their brick-and-mortar presences while still supporting quick fulfillment of personalized orders placed through mobile apps.
And, the easier it is for shoppers to order personalized products, the more they’ll do so, and the more personal data retailers will collect. Data will power more efficient deliveries and better personalization options, continuing the cycle.