Welcome to Costco! Here’s Your Robot-Made Pizza!
Chances are, when you hear the name “Costco,” the first thing you think of is that slow-witted gent from “Idiocracy” expressing his love for every person who walks through the door. What most people don’t think, though, is “high-quality ready-made food,” unless you’re one of those folks who show up for the rotisserie chicken. Costco’s got something new for its patrons, though: a pizza of surprising precision made largely by robot.
The pizza in question is made using several points of automation; an automated saucing process puts the same amount onto each pizza, and a flattening machine presses the dough at 130 degrees to ensure uniform thickness. About the only part a human has contact with the pizza in question is in applying cheese.
A pepperoni pizza always offers exactly 60 slices, and pizzas come in either cheese, pepperoni, or the “combo,” as it’s known. Individual slices are yours for $1.99, and a complete 18-inch pizza runs a mere $9.95, which is actually a much better price than can be had for similar, often smaller, pizzas elsewhere. Business Insider notes that the slice is “…a good slice: unwieldy, but cheesy, salty, and extremely filling.”
Given that around 10 percent of the American workforce is currently employed by retail, moves like these fundamentally jeopardize the economy as we know it. Yet at the same time, it’s hard to see how moves like these can’t take place. We’ve already seen automated pizza creation stations that connect to mobile payments systems, making grabbing dinner that much easier. In fact, it’s the kind of thing we’ll likely see plenty more of and are already; fast casual is embracing automation, as places like Wendy’s and Subway have been spotted here. A Cornerstone Capital Group report says that anywhere from six to 7.5 million retail jobs could ultimately be lost to automation.
Retailers are embracing this strategy since it means new offerings for customers and lowered expenses, which means profit on both sides, but it could also prove a long-term disaster unless that big slug of work force can find something else to do. It’s a great opportunity for mobile payments providers to step in also, but the risk of long-term economic disaster is still very much in play.