An innovative automated pizza oven concept, which recently opened a new location at a gas station in Mississauga, has plans to expand to thousands of locations across North America in the coming years.
PizzaForno’s latest pizza vending machine venture is at the Petro Canada Dixie Petro-Pass (7300 Dixie Road) offering truck drivers, who have struggled to find food options during the COVID-19 pandemic, nutritious and convenient menu items at the tap of a digital screen.
“And we sort of accelerated those conversations once COVID hit because of the truckers having difficulty finding food solutions because a lot of the places had closed. So in partnership with Petro Canada we said ‘hey we’ve got this great solution, you’ve got a location, we’ve got the unit’. We moved very quickly to answer the call of truckers by putting this PizzaForno in the Petro Pass location,” he said.
Customers have a choice of seven artisanal pizzas, which are cooked in under three minutes. The pizzas are baked in a patented convection oven and transported by a robotic arm – no human interaction is involved. PizzaForno order screens and ovens are thoroughly disinfected on a regular basis, and hand sanitizer is available on-site for health and safety.
The first unit was launched December 2018 on Bay Street in Toronto. The company currently has 15 locations in southern Ontario.
The capacity of the vending machine at the Petro Canada Dixie Petro-Pass is 70 pizzas a day. The company can track in real time the actual sales of a unit and as the inventory gets to a near depleted level it can fill the machine as required so it never runs out of stock.
PizzaForno has three ways of deploying the vending machines — in a shipping container, an outdoor kiosk version, and a storefront location.
Tomlin said the plan is to have 10,000 of these automated pizza vending machines across North America by 2025.
“Our plans are North America wide. We are working on plans for a U.S. launch some time later in 2020 as well as more nationally across Canada. We’ll be launching our first unit outside of Ontario shortly with a national chain,” he said.
“It’s disruptive. It’s a 24/7 solution. It’s a very low touch food option. You’re only touching the screen. The pizza is robotically transferred from the refrigerated section of the unit to the oven where it’s baked in a proprietary convection oven and the whole thing is less than three minutes from the time you order to the time it’s delivered.
“Obviously it also has a very low footprint in terms of real estate. Real estate prices being what they are, you can have a turnkey pizzeria in less than 80 square feet.”
All 12-inch artisanal pizzas come out whole and unsliced. Each machine provides cutlery - either a fork and knife or mini pizza-cutter. One pizza can be made at a time however people can order multiple pizzas in the same transaction. At this time, napkins are not available at the machine. The team is working on it.
The pizzas range between $11 to $13 plus tax.
Mark Ainley, who operates Sense of Space which specializes in flow optimization, said one of the issues with the concept is when one person is ordering a pizza at the machine the next person can’t place their order until the previous pizza has come out.
“The three minutes starts once you’ve been able to place your order. If five people are in line, that’s 15 minutes. When you go to a restaurant where they have lots of pizza ovens you can place your order and multiple pizzas are being made at the same time,” said Ainley. “You might only wait 10 minutes.
“So really the whole waiting time for this system really depends on how many people are in line ahead of you. It might be faster to get your pizza from a restaurant.”
Ainley said the concept is good at this particular time when people are paying closer attention to contactless delivery of food to customers.