News, Culture & Society

Firm founded by SpaceX workers to debut robot-pizza truck at University of California this fall

A group of former SpaceX employees is set to disrupt the $45 billion American pizza industry this fall with help from a robotic pizza-maker. 

Stellar Pizza, which is the brainchild of former SpaceX engineer Benson Tsai and former SpaceX chef Ted Cizma, will offer perfectly-cooked pizzas that are made by a machine in about five minutes. 

With a goal of keeping prices affordable, 12-inch pies will cost about $7 to $12 and customers can choose up to ten different toppings.

The machine can turn a ball of dough into a pie and portion out a very even amount of sauce and toppings. It was designed with in-house electronics, is controlled by custom-built software and will be housed inside a truck.  

A group of former SpaceX employees is set to disrupt the $45 billion American pizza industry this fall with help from a robotic pizza-maker

In a video showing the entire process, a ball of dough is transferred to a dough press that opens and flattens it into a symmetrical pie shape

In a video showing the entire process, a ball of dough is transferred to a dough press that opens and flattens it into a symmetrical pie shape

Then, the dough moves to the topping line system, where things like sauce, cheese, pepperoni and other toppings are added

Then, the dough moves to the topping line system, where things like sauce, cheese, pepperoni and other toppings are added

In a video showing the entire process, a ball of dough is transferred to a dough press that opens and flattens it into a symmetrical pie shape. Then, the dough moves to the topping line system, where things like sauce, cheese, pepperoni and other toppings are added. Lastly, the pizzas are moved into one of four ovens to cook.

Human employees will be on hand to pass the finished pizzas to customers. Stellar Pizza, which recently received $16.5 million in Series A funding from Jay-Z, will debut this fall at the University of California.

‘Our founders wanted to create a business that would be groundbreaking and disruptive, but which could serve the greater good by delivering a superior product at a fair price and available to all,’ Cizma tells The Manual. 

At SpaceX, Cizma reportedly received a mandate from founder Elon Musk to build a restaurant in the middle of the rocket factory that was ‘badass.’ 

His efforts grew to have a staff of 200 and served 1.4 million meals per year across the space company’s locations. 

Human employees will be on hand to pass the finished pizzas to customers. Stellar Pizza, which recently received $16.5 million in Series A funding from Jay-Z, will debut this fall at the University of California

Human employees will be on hand to pass the finished pizzas to customers. Stellar Pizza, which recently received $16.5 million in Series A funding from Jay-Z, will debut this fall at the University of California

With a goal of keeping prices affordable, 12-inch pies will cost about $7 to $12 and customers can choose up to ten different toppings

With a goal of keeping prices affordable, 12-inch pies will cost about $7 to $12 and customers can choose up to ten different toppings

The pizza dough is made in-house and fermented for a few days to provide more complexity and flavor, according to the company

The pizza dough is made in-house and fermented for a few days to provide more complexity and flavor, according to the company

‘The one that sticks with me is that each dish you prepare is no more or less important than the last meal you made, or the next,’ he says. ‘When you’re serving 5,000 meals a day, that takes on a certain significance.’ 

At that scale, efficiency was likely a consideration. 

'Our founders wanted to create a business that would be groundbreaking and disruptive,' Ted Cizma, culinary director of Stellar Pizza, tells The Manual

‘Our founders wanted to create a business that would be groundbreaking and disruptive,’ Ted Cizma, culinary director of Stellar Pizza, tells The Manual

The pizza dough is made in-house and fermented for a few days to provide more complexity and flavor, according to the company. 

‘Stellar fits into the pizza industry as a new brand that delivers on the promise of fast, fresh and affordable pizza,’ Tsai tells Pizza Today. ‘As the brand grows, Stellar Pizza strives to be the obvious choice for any hungry consumer that is craving delicious pizza.’

The pizza robot currently has the capacity to make 420 pies. 

Cizma also has some tips for anyone cooking pizza without the aid of a robot. ‘Don’t skimp on the ingredients,’ he tells The Manual. ‘Just like a computer. Garbage in, garbage out.’

Stellar is one of several companies working in the robot-pizza space. New Jersey-based PizzaHQ has converted a traditional pizzeria into a robotic one and has expansion plans. Picnic Works is a firm that leases a ‘picnic pizza station’ modular assembly line that can produce up to 100 pies per hour with only one person supervising it. 

Restaurant robots in general are having a bit of a moment as the hospitality industry deals with high inflation, demands for higher wages from workers and, in some cities, lower foot track thanks to the popularity of working from home. 

Robot chefs that can cook fries, flip burgers and even make tortilla chips are increasingly being tested out by brands like Chipotle, Jack in the Box and Wing Zone. 

Miso Robotics, a California-based company, built a kitchen bot called Flippy that cooks 300 burgers per day and later expanded into whipping up fries with a second version. 

'Stellar fits into the pizza industry as a new brand that delivers on the promise of fast, fresh and affordable pizza,' Benson Tsai, co-founder of Stellar Pizza, tells Pizza Today

‘Stellar fits into the pizza industry as a new brand that delivers on the promise of fast, fresh and affordable pizza,’ Benson Tsai, co-founder of Stellar Pizza, tells Pizza Today

'As the brand grows, Stellar Pizza strives to be the obvious choice for any hungry consumer that is craving delicious pizza,' Tsai says

‘As the brand grows, Stellar Pizza strives to be the obvious choice for any hungry consumer that is craving delicious pizza,’ Tsai says

The robots – which have been in development for several years – use a combination of cameras, artificial intelligence and predictable, mechanized motions to perform repetitive tasks that service workers might find to be boring.

‘We realized for a robotic solution to be a real solution for our customers, it had to have a really high customer return on investment. Which meant it had to take a meaningful amount of labor off the table,’ Miso Robotics CEO Mike Bell told the Washington Post. 

Robots that can make food are just the latest type of automation being used at America’s 200,000 fast food locations – which have already deployed contactless kiosks and mobile payment systems.

Restaurant robots are having a bit of a moment as the hospitality industry deals with high inflation, demands for higher wages from workers and, in some cities, lower foot track thanks to the popularity of working from home

Restaurant robots are having a bit of a moment as the hospitality industry deals with high inflation, demands for higher wages from workers and, in some cities, lower foot track thanks to the popularity of working from home

***
Read more at DailyMail.co.uk