Roadside pizza vending machine turns heads
PizzaForno, said to be the country’s first-ever robot-made pizza, has a location in Stayner. Combining artisan pizza with robotic automation technology, PizzaForno has 14 locations in Canada after coming to Canada last year, popping up first in Toronto.
“The amount of buzz and press we got was – from consumers and business owners – was pretty overwhelming so we decided to launch our licensee model,” said Les Tomlin, who brought the technology to Canada with his partner William Moyer.
Local vendors Leah and Sean Warren claimed territory for this area.
The first of their three units was installed in Wasaga Beach in August, followed by Elmvale in September and Stayner in October, and they are exploring other locations, including Collingwood and Blue Mountains. Tomlin said as per their licensing agreement the Warrens are permitted to launch as many kiosks within their territory as they see fit.
The Warrens said they became interested in the PizzaForno model because they liked the idea of it always being open, serving customers when other food service places are closed.
The Wasaga Beach location was very well received when launched late last summer, selling out every day.
Sean said Stayner is currently their best machine in terms of demand. Being on Highway 26, it is in a highly visible location. They said they are regularly stocking the machine with fresh pizzas, especially at peek times, like when the weather is nice and school is in.
“They really love the Hawaiian pizzas down there,” he said. “It’s also a sleeker, nicer machine and we seem to have more road traffic.”
“We get a lot of feedback,” said Leah. “A lot of people come to the machine and take videos and selfies and they are just fascinated by the technology behind it. Some of them don’t even buy a pizza, they just check it out.”
They are encouraging people to get a little more familiar with it.
“People are still a little skeptical,” said Sean… “This is a quality artisanal fresh made pizza. Come and try it. It’s always open.”
Breaking through that skepticism is the company’s challenge.
“We’re encouraging people who ask ‘what is it?’ to actually stop and try it through a marketing campaign to educate consumers they can get a great artisanal pizza in less than three minutes for about $11,” said Tomlin. “It’s always fresh, never frozen and a great quality product from a quote-on-quote vending machine.”
He said the pizza crust is par baked to PizzaForno’s specifications and is then frozen and shipped to the operator. The fresh ingredients are sent to the pizza topping facility where the pizzas are assembled by hand and boxed before being loaded into the refrigerated machine, which holds 70 pizzas.
“Once they leave the facility they never touch human hands again, or even robotic hands again until you the customer receive the pizza at the front slot,” said Tomlin.
When an order is placed, a robotic arm selects the pizza of choice from the refrigerated side, a conveyor moves it into the cooking side of the unit where a robotic arm pushed it up into the convection oven where it is baked for about two minutes. It is then placed back in the box and comes out the front slot.
Tomlin said the technology comes from France, where in the last 10 years 800 units have been installed.
The Stayner PizzaForno is located at 7458 Highway 26, in the parking lot of Stayner Optometry Clinic.
On a personal note:
When I first noticed the PizzaForno machine in October, I became very curious. Not only did I want to try to the pizza but I also wanted to know more about the technology behind the machine, and how it had come to Stayner.
I contacted Pizza Forno through their communications firm, who in turn put me in touch with the people who brought the technology and the local couple who licensed machines in this area.
I enlisted my family for a taste testing mission and with varying levels of skepticism we went on a mission to order a pizza.
It was a bit odd to be ordering food on the side of the road but it was also a novelty to navigate the touch screen menu. It was very easy to order, and then you wait while the machine makes a series of mechanical sounds and eventually the smell of pizza baking in the oven begins to waft from the machine.
As promised, within minutes a pizza emerges from the front slot. It is hot and bubbly. The crust looks a bit charred, like it has been wood fired.
My family agreed that the pizza was quite good. We were most impressed with the crust, which was soft and chewy.
Overall, the pizza exceeded our expectations.