Around 2013 we noticed a void. Throughout Europe and Asia millions of people were consuming pizza, panini’s, meat pies and other hot foods from vending machines each year. The question was why in the United States, a country where pizza is a dining and snack food staple, are pizza vending machines relatively unknown?
With this opportunity in mind, we went to work. By developing a similar machine certified for US markets, we could enhance the profitability and brand awareness of pizzerias through the United States. We began by purchasing 12 pizza vending machines from Italy and installing them in various business locations as part of a limited but milti-faceted test market in southwest Florida. The test market was designed to:
The results proved to be consistent with our original assumptions:
During each installation, the initial reaction from consumers was “Wow, I wish I would have thought of that” or “I hope you fill this machine every day.” Sales began at a steady pace and increased as consumers became more confident that they were buying quality pizza. This confidence grew by having the pizza supplied by a local pizzeria and having the name of the pizzeria displayed on the machine. We did receive complaints about the need for cutlery as the 10” round pies were a clumsy eat. (This problem was voiced by our female clientele.)
This is a “grab-and-go” product. Engineer the machine to vend not a whole pizza, but one large slice that is easy to carry and eat. The pizza should be from a recognizable pizzeria, or brand, with a reputation for quality.
While it would be unfair to criticize another manufacturer’s machine (i.e., the test machines), it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know that acquiring parts from abroad is both difficult and expensive. Also, getting the machines through customs was both difficult and time consuming. It was clear that we needed to engineer a simpler machine; one that incorporated proven technology and parts that were readily available.
Engineer the machines with parts and technology that are found in North America. Employ a team of experts in oven technology, design and robotics. Above all, design the machines to be simple, reliable and functional.
This was a real eye opener and probably the reason why there are no pizza vending machines in the United States. Although the original wiring had met certain UL requirements, the machines that came through Customs DID NOT meet the National Automatic Merchandising Association (NAMA) standards. It cost almost $2,000 per machine in parts (and tests) that were necessary for certification. Unfortunately, the original manufacture had not undertaken those efforts so the expense was passed along to us.
Engineer the machines to conform to US health and operational standards. Supply buyers with certifications.
The machines served a 10” round pizza in a box. However, the process of folding the boxes was time consuming and the machine jammed if they were not folded properly. Furthermore, the boxes were very expensive (roughly $0.28 per box). Also, the machine’s freezer system was expensive to operate and, although it had a defrost cycle, was prone to icing-over.
Reduce operating overhead by engineering a machine that incorporated a standard refrigeration unit. The machine should be designed so as to store smaller, less expensive, serving trays (trays that did NOT require folding).
Per sale profitability was never a problem. The problem was sales per hour. It took approximately 3 minutes to serve each pie. That limitation equated to roughly 15 servings per hour. This limitation made it very difficult to achieve any significant level of revenue. This was frustrating since we saw potential customers walk by the machine because they did not want to wait, and even if they were willing to wait the machine was not capable of accepting multiple orders.
The cooking and ordering system had to be engineered to accommodate multiple orders, with a target of serving 100 slices per hour. Additional revenue could be achieved if the machine could drive business back to the pizzeria (and vice-versa).
After two years we are proud to announce that we have engineered a pizza vending machine that has exceeded all of our design and certification requirements. We can now serve the same pizza made in restaurants, by the slice within 2 minutes after ordering. The finished product is truly the “World’s smallest Pizzeria.”