A firm that raised almost £300m less than two years ago to create pizza-making robot chefs is closing that part of its business to focus on other automated ventures instead.
US-based Zume informed staff this week that it is axing its Zume Pizza business and will cut more than 350 jobs as it repositions the company.
Reports cited an email from CEO Alex Garden to employees in which he expressed “admiration and sadness” for the closure.
“Over the last four years this business has been our invention test bed and has been our inspiration for many of the growth businesses we have at Zume today,” he wrote.
The business was set up to harness the potential of robotics, automation and mobile kitchen technologies to produce food, and attracted investment from Japanese bank Softbank.
However, reports suggested it had been burning cash too quickly while the high cost of its robots had proved prohibitive.
It now plans to shift its focus to food packaging and delivery systems, and expects some of the staff affected by the closure of its pizza division to move across to that side of the business.
The company believes the market for sustainable packaging is set to grow significantly and it is confident it can be at the forefront of this expansion.
Zume had been considered a frontrunner in the market for automated pizza-making. Two years ago it launched a robot that could recognise when a pizza crust hits peak par bake perfection before strategically taking out each crust from the kitchen’s 800°C oven and moving it into a 1.25-inch, 27 shelved pizza rack.
It was able to leverage its six-axis mobility, speed and accuracy to index one of these shelves, filling four separate racks at a time. Without tearing the dough or dropping toppings, it can fill an entire pizza rack within four and a half minutes.
The robot bases its decisions on Zume Pizza’s proprietary predictive analytics to recognise which pizza corresponds with each rack slot.
It also partnered with foodservice equipment manufacturer Welbilt in a move that allowed it to launch the second-generation of its Food Delivery Vehicles equipped with hyper-efficient, customisable foodservice appliances.
Unlike traditional food trucks and delivery vehicles, which cannot cook while moving, Zume aimed to optimise the baking and delivery process to ensure a customer’s meal is delivered at peak freshness.