Americans eat approximately 100 acres of pizza each day, or 350 slices per second – contributing to an industry of $30 billion annually. Knowing this, Julia Collins, former CFO of Mexican-themed restaurant Mexicue, saw room for improvement.

The beginning

“I have always had a love for pizza, particularly after spending some time living on a water buffalo farm in southern Italy,” she recalls. “During my time there, I came to realize that the majority of pizza eaten by Americans – pumped with grease, sugar and preservatives – looked nothing like the light, fresh, Italian pies. There had to be a better way.”

Her means for competing with the Pizza Huts and Little Caesers of the world? Robots.

Collins launched Zume Pizza with co-founder Alex Garden in 2016. The restaurant has no storefront and enlists a blended human/robot workforce to deliver hundreds of fresh, artisanal pies every day throughout California.

I came to realize that the majority of pizza eaten by Americans looked nothing like the light, fresh, Italian pies. There had to be a better way.”

“As we started to build the company, I committed to taking a “first principles” approach to entering the industry, giving ourselves permission to rewrite all the rules around pizza delivery – that meant creating the best experience for future customers, employees and the earth,” Collins explains. “From the implementation of human-centered manufacturing processes that use automation to help robots and people work together, to our delivery-only model, each innovation serves to ensure that healthy delicious food is accessible to everyone – not just the one percent.”

Eliminating tasks, not occupations

Zume uses automation to accomplish monotonous tasks, such as spreading sauce, and potentially hazardous ones, like removing pizzas from hot ovens. 

“Through the implementation of our robots Marta, Giorgio, Pepe and Bruno, we're able to remove the dangerous, repetitive tasks associated with food preparation and provide full health benefits, stock options and competitive wages for our employees,” Collins outlines. She believes that for the foreseeable future, humans will always be involved in the pizza-preparation process. “I'm working to thoughtfully incorporate automation to eliminate tasks, not occupations. As of now, our employees are responsible for the recipe development, scratch cooking, putting on the cheese and toppings and taking the pizzas out of the oven.”

Zume Pizza is one of many players in the food industry looking to change the way we think about what we eat, but Collins has no intention of stopping there. “While I'm starting with pizza, I hope to set an example for the entire food industry. This is just the beginning.”