Pizza of the future? AI being used to make pizza at T-Mobile Park

Artificial intelligence could be used to make your next pizza, if you order one at T-Mobile Park.

A Seattle startup called Picnic has developed a machine capable of turning out hundreds of pizzas an hour.

The CEO of the company said the machine can also help solve a staffing shortage in the food services industry.

“You can make different pizzas, each one in a row,” said Clayton Wood, CEO of Picnic.

The machine gets the pizza order from an iPad app that was developed in-house, at the company’s office and lab in Seattle’s Interbay neighborhood.

It uses artificial intelligence to tell what size crust is being put into the machine, as well as whether the crust is a crust at all.

It figures out how much sauce and toppings to put on, slices the pepperoni and puts out a finished, though raw, pizza.

It can churn out 300 12-inch pizzas per hour.

“It uses deep learning to correct for lighting conditions and foreign objects,” Wood said.

The National Restaurant Association said staffing is a top challenge for the industry right now, with more than one-third of businesses -- struggling to fill openings.

“Food service is having a huge labor crisis right now where they can’t get skilled workers,” Wood said.

On Tuesday in downtown Seattle, it was easy to spot “now hiring” signs at Potbelly's, Veggie Grill and Domino’s Pizza.

“What would you say to people who say this machine is taking peoples' jobs?” KIRO7’s Deedee Sun asked.

“I would say those jobs are there. The people we’re working with would happily hire more people, and the people just aren’t there to be hired,” Wood said.

He said Picnic’s new machine can help.

It's already being tested at T-Mobile Park and was used during the last month of the Mariners season on the suite level.
"I think it's been wonderful," said Steve Dominguez, the general manager for Centerplate, which handles the food at T-Mobile Park.

He said Centerplate has also struggled to hire.

“We do job fairs every day, it seems like,” Dominguez said.

He said having the machine has helped the company make more consistent pizzas.
"Once they saw it in effect, I think it put a lot of our people at ease, too. They were, like, 'Are we going to be replaced by a robot?' Absolutely not. This will help you, help that worker be more efficient and consistent," Dominguez said.

He said Centerplate is planning to roll out the machine to serve general concession during the next Mariners season, so you can try a slice for yourself.

Picnic’s machine is also going to be used at Zaucer, a restaurant in Redmond.

Picnic said restaurants or companies contract out the machine and pay a monthly fee that’s determined in part by the volume of your business.

“We install the system at no cost to the operator, and we will upgrade both the hardware and software over the life of the contract because we know the system is going to get a lot better. It’s great today but it’s going to get a lot better tomorrow,” Wood said.

The company eventually hopes to expand its product to assemble sandwiches or tacos or whatever foods need assembling. But right now, it’s focused on pizza.

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