A French start-up is bidding to speed up the way pizza is produced and served by developing a kitchen robot that can carry out multiple tasks at once.
Ekim, which was founded by two engineers, recently secured £2.2m (£1.9m) in private equity funding to finance its plans to open a completely autonomous restaurant by the end of this year.
The company’s flagship ‘pizzaiolo robot’ is capable of making a pizza from scratch once a customer has programmed in their order.
The robot’s gestures are designed to match those of real-life pizza chefs, and with three arms it can make several pizzas at the same time.
Chief executive, Philippe Goldman, told Reuters: “We are not faster than a pizzaiolo as we make a pizza in 4 minutes and 30 seconds because the pizzas are made on demand in front of the customer, we take time to cook them well, to put the ingredients.
“But the robot has three arms, can co-ordinate tasks and make several pizzas at once. So yes, making a pizza takes 4 minutes 30 seconds but we deliver one pizza every 30 seconds, which allows us to deliver 120 pizzas an hour when a pizzaiolo can only make 40 pizzas an hour.”
The idea for the robot came after the company’s founders grew tired of eating low quality meals when they were students. Mr Goldman said the pizzaiolo robot could essentially work in a similar way to a vending machine.
“People nowadays have less and less available time to eat, they hardly have 30 minutes to have lunch. Therefore, they have to choose between time and food quality. What we’re doing is providing both,” he told Reuters.
As well as attracting the interest of investors, Jérôme Tafani, CEO of Burger King France, has joined the company’s strategic committee.
Ekim intends to open a fully autonomous restaurant under the ‘Pazzi’ brand by the end of the year and has been seeking out suitable locations for the pilot in Paris and Ile-de-France. The owners have confirmed they are open to franchising and licensing the concept.
— Pazzi (@PAZZITastemaker) June 27, 2018
French chef Thierry Graffagnino, a three-time world pizza champion, has been working on the project with Ekim since last year and is currently responsible for signing off the dough and pizza recipes.
Customers will be able to watch the robots making their pizzas, with the company revealing that it has studied countless videos of pizzaiolos spreading the tomato sauce on the base and adding the condiments in order to ensure the robots move with “maximum elegance”.
Automation in the fast food sector is a trend that is only set to continue. Earlier this year we revealed how a US firm has developed a £45,000 burger robot that can flip burgers twice as fast as humans.