At first glance, it looks like a solution to a particularly first-world problem: To eliminate the sogginess in pizzas caused by dwell time (i.e. the interim period it spends waiting to be delivered), startup Zume Pizza has launched a delivery truck equipped with 56 specially designed ovens to guarantee that their pies arrive at customers' doorsteps fresh out of the oven, literally.
Only in Silicon Valley, right?
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But hang on. This isn't really about lukewarm pies. It's about disrupting a US$38 billion market that is currently dominated by big-box chains. In fact, the Big Four in the US – Domino's, Little Caesars, Papa John's and Pizza Hut – currently control around 40 percent of the market. And while there are many ways to go about doing this, founders Julia Collins and Alex Garden have chosen to focus on the food-delivery experience, and for good reason: the surge in mobile ordering and demand for food delivery. In fact, digital ordering is growing 300 percent faster than dine-in traffic. At Domino's alone, more than 50 percent of its US customers order via digital platforms. Collins, who has a restaurant background, believes that Zume's advantage lies in its ability to deliver on price, quality and speed.
Thanks to its Baked on the Way (BOTW) technology, when customers place an order, the pizzas are par-baked in an 800-degree oven and then loaded into the truck's ovens, which are programmed to complete the bake four minutes before they reach their destination. Using BOTW technology not only ensures that customers get to enjoy pizzas the way they were meant to be, but also eliminates the need for artificial additives, says co-founder Garden. "By eliminating dwell time, we can make pizza with locally sourced, chemical-free ingredients, so that customers don't have to compromise quality for convenience."
On the delivery front, the technology also brings with it a number of other benefits: since the ovens are fully automated, drivers can concentrate on the road without compromising safety. Theoretically, it also reduces delivery times since the pizzas are baked en route (though one has to wonder how long the 56th customer will have to wait for their pie).
While Zume Pizza's rivals have been experimenting with robots – Domino's has been testing a delivery droid in Australia and New Zealand – it has not replaced a part of their workforce with them yet. At Zume however, there is a robot workforce with bots costing between $25,000 and $35,000 each, currently perform highly repetitive, low-level tasks such as squirting sauce on pizzas and loading them into the oven. They are slated to take on more work in the future.
Thanks to them, the company says it has been able to halve its labor costs and reinvest its savings in employee benefits. Its drivers, for instance, earn between $17 and $20 an hour, which is above the minimum wage of $15 an hour, and receive health and dental insurance as well as company stock. So far, the public's response has been encouraging – it currently has 107 reviews on Yelp and a 4-star average.
At present, Zume Pizza serves only Mountain View, California residents though it should come as no surprise that the founders have plans to expand, starting with San Jose and the South Bay, followed by the rest of the Bay Area if all goes well.
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