Robot powered pizza chain of the future is almost here! Darryl Dueltgen and Jason Udrija had two options: Expand their successful New Jersey pizza restaurant brand called Pizza Love, or create a concept that could revolutionize the market for pizza. They chose a revolution for the future.
“We’ve put a lot of time into building a labor-reduced, tech-driven concept that we believe will revolutionize the pizza industry,” said Udrija, who cofounded PizzaHQ alongside partners Dueltgen and Matt Bassil.
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PizzaHQ plans to use robotics and other technology to create an affordable pizza, while using the same recipe and high-quality ingredients as its dine-in restaurant.
In Totowa, New Jersey, a borough about thirty minutes north of Newark, the pizza is boxed and delivered to heated pickup lockers in delivery vans. The customer can track their order online and can scan a QR code to pick up a pizza waiting for them in a locker. UberEats and other third-party delivery partners will be able to pick up orders from the pickup lockers and deliver them to customers.
A hub-and-spokes model will allow Udrija and his co-founders to blanket a metropolitan area with enough pizza production to reach large numbers of customers over time. In the next five years, Udrija says, the company plans to surround the central production facility with five fulfillment centers. Raw ingredients for the pizzas are prepared each day at the hub and delivered to the fulfillment centers. In the future, the hub will have up to four Picnic pizza robots and 50 employees, while each of the distribution centers will have up to two Picnic pizza robots and about ten employees.
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Udrija says they plan to replicate the model in other cities across the country once they work out the kinks in their northern New Jersey program. They have raised $1.3 million from private investors and a bank loan to fund their growth, and expect to close the round of funding at $1.7 million in the coming months.
PizzaHQ would be a big win for Picnic if it takes off. Picnic pizza robots are at the core of PizzaHQ’s entire system, so each city the company builds out is similar to its northern New Jersey operations market would translate to more than a dozen Picnic pizza machines.
In the restaurant industry, PizzaHQ’s rethinking of the pizza restaurant is part of a trend to adapt to the rapid growth of digital ordering. The hub and spoke production model has become very popular in recent years in markets like China. Digital ordering and delivery have led to new operating models, including online-only restaurant concepts powered by ghost kitchens. PizzaHQ combines the hub and spoke model with the dark kitchen model with a few additional toppings of automation and other technology.
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PizzaHQ may be too early to tell if it will revolutionize the industry, but it has a few things working for it. One reason is that the pizza industry is huge and has already been built around delivery. In addition to their experience building pizza businesses, the founders have also built pizza restaurants in the past, which gives them an existing customer base as well as a sense of legitimacy in an industry that is bloating up quickly.
PizzaHQ will begin serving customers in Totowa, New Jersey in the first quarter of 2022 for those in and around the area that want to try it out.