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Robots in New Jersey Make Great Pizza (Sorry, Humans)

Picnic Pizza machines crank out 300 pies an hour at the new PizzaHQ restaurant in northern Jersey. We visited to see how it stacks up to a New York slice.

When I first saw the Picnic automated pizza-making station demoed at the CES tech show in early 2020, I was skeptical. How could a machine dropping toppings be better than human hands? And does it taste any good?

Two and a half years later, we now have a pizza restaurant in New Jersey that built its entire business around the assembly line-styled machines. (And it's worth noting this area of New Jersey takes its pizza pretty seriously.) PizzaHQ, located in Woodland Park, uses the Picnic system to pump out 300 pies an hour for big school or party orders -- and it also takes orders throughout the day for the family that just needs a quick $10 cheese pie.

a machine adds toppings to a pizza base

Picnic's pizza machines automate the sauce, cheese and toppings at PizzaHQ in New Jersey.

Bobby Oliver/CNET

The Picnic machines automate the placement of sauce, cheese and various toppings based on orders that come in. The PizzaHQ restaurant also invested in other machines to handle pressing the dough, cooking and slicing up the pizza. In under a minute the pie is ready for the oven and cooking time is about seven minutes. The conveyer-belt styled oven is fed multiple pies at once, while humans transfer them to be cut by a press and put into a box.

Humans are still needed to get the pies from one machine to the next, and employees handle multiple service aspects of the business. Fewer hands needed in the kitchen also means the team can hire more delivery drivers.

three pizza machines in a row

The Picnic pizza system uses multiple refrigerated modules to dispense sauce, cheese and toppings. 

Richard Peterson/CNET

And yes, it tastes amazing. Turns out, my taste buds don't mind if a robot sprinkled the cheese. The art of the pizza is the science of perfecting the ingredients and cooking -- be it with human or robot hands. 

Check out the machine in action in the video embedded above to learn more about the system, where else you may find Picnic's machines in your town, and to see if pizza made by robot can stand up to a traditional New York slice.

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