It might sound like pie in the sky, but pizza vending machines have finally arrived in Australia, following examples in France, the US, and Italy.
The Pizza Gio machine vends two varieties of 11-inch artisan pizzas, cooked on demand in under three minutes. It's the brainchild of George Pompei, the owner of Pompei's pizzeria and Italian restaurant in Sydney's Bondi Beach.
Located in the Westfield Chatswood shopping centre, Pizza Gio has been over two years in the making. The machine itself is sourced from Italy and is restocked daily with pizzas ready to go. Customers choose the variety, pay using credit card or cash on a touchscreen, then wait in anticipation before the pizza is dispensed sliced and ready to eat.
While it might seem like supreme magic at play, the machine actually has some sophisticated technology inside.
"First of all, we have to guarantee and ensure the cold chain," said Pompei. "By cold chain, I mean the actual temperatures are maintained at all times. So that really safeguards the actual product. Even in the production stage, before it gets to the machine, there's a whole sophisticated cold chain process in place."
Pizza Gio can hold 84 pizzas at one time: 42 margherita and 42 hot salami. Pizzas are prepared as normal in Pompei's Bondi pizzeria. The dough rests for 48 hours, the ingredients are added and then they are cooked about 50 percent of the way. Then, they're then blast chilled and held until they are ready to be installed at -20 degrees Celcius (-4 degrees Fahrenheit).
Next comes the heating process, which gets up to 300 degrees Celcius (572 degrees Fahrenheit).
"The oven is really cutting-edge. What it does, it's actually able to replicate what goes in on a wood fired oven. We can alter and set the parameters of the oven and the way it cooks to really make the pizza come out crisp and beautifully cooked. If we put in different types of pizza, we can adjust the cooking time too."
The machine sends updates to Pompei's phone and computer, so if there is a variance in temperature or if the power has been cut, it stops dispensing the product and sends a notification alarm.
"We have a sign standing next to the machine, and one of the night cleaners put the sign behind the machine where the air intake is," said Pompei. "All of a sudden I started getting these alarms that the compressor was under duress, so I raced out and luckily it wasn't a machine malfunction, but what had happened was that it wasn't cooling properly."
Pompei says that the pizza vending model works in a different way to drink or snack machines because it's not about acting on impulse -- it's about the buyer actually craving a pizza. This means the machines always have to be ready to go, so everybody can give pizza a chance.