I had a fast-food pizza at Pazzi, a fully robotic pizzeria. This is what it was like.
- Pazzi in
Parisbills itself as the first pizzarestaurant staffed only by robots.
- James Ware placed his order, then watched robotic arms make and deliver his order.
Pazzi bills itself as the first fully robotic pizza restaurant.
It may seem like an unlikely new phase of automation, but its CEO, Philippe Goldman, told me, "In 10 years, there won't be too many humans working in fast-food restaurants." He called it a "toxic, low-paying" industry.
I walked into the restaurant, which opened in Paris' central Beaubourg district in the summer, at 5 p.m. last Saturday. This is the second branch — the first opened about an hour outside the city shortly before lockdowns began. I saw the only human working customers see, who was on the door, making sure things ran smoothly.
I placed my order on a touch screen, familiar to anyone who's ordered at a fast-food chain. I customized my choice, a €9.50 Garden Pazzi pizza. So far, so fast food.
But the moment I collected the receipt, the spectacle kicked off in the kitchen.
Visible behind thick glass were three arms around the kitchen, each mounted to a static pillar.
A ball of fresh dough was fed out of a hatch and scooped up eagerly by one of the arms. It laid this down on what looked like a bed of nails on the counter at the back of the kitchen.
The column above it then squashed downward, as this platform dipped down, to compress the dough just the right amount.
Meanwhile, another one of the robot's arms fitted with a glinting silver cup of tomato puree deposited its contents in the pizza's center, spreading these with several vigorous clockwise strokes. Once finished, it dunked its cup fitting into a hole in the counter for a quick cleanse.
I watched the whirl of the robot's arm as it sprinkled toppings before the first arm smoothly put its doughy creation into the oven.
There's something surreal about being so absorbed by this display while the other couple customers munch their meals in the background unperturbed.
My pizza began rotating round in the oven, which resembled a mealtime merry-go-round. Meanwhile, the arms spun back into gear. They can turn around one pizza every 45 seconds.
While the arms moved on to the next customer's pizza, mine was collected from the oven after 4 1/2 minutes and carried with care to the counter in front of me, where it was slid into an open cardboard box.
There, the third arm began slicing away at the pizza from different angles. Once it had sliced it into six slices, the arm closed the box and pushed it into a vault.
The screen above the collection boxes informed me that my pizza was ready at slot one.
After scanning the QR code on my receipt, the door slid down to reveal my boxed pizza, which, after the process I'd just watched, felt like some alien artifact.
The robot's arms performed a flurry of fist bumps and high fives, then got back to work.
After sitting at an empty table, I did the only thing the robot left to me: drizzling chili oil.
At first bite, I was struck by the richness of the flavors and the definition of the dough.
It might not compete with a pizza produced by the three-time world pizza champion Thierry Graffagnino, whose recipe the robots just used and who consulted on the process, but it's rather refined for a meal on the go.
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