Robotic restaurant servers. GPT chat bots mimicking actual writers. The Roomba. It’s hard to escape AI technology and the mechanization of mundane household tasks these days. Now there’s an automated pizzeria where pepperoni and cheese pizzas are served hot and fresh by a robotic arm at the touch of a button 24/7, and it’s open in Buckhead, with a grand opening planned for May 6.
Called PizzaForno, the Canadian-based company behind the unmanned pizza-slinging vending machines claims pies are stored fresh and refrigerated (never frozen) and baked in less than three minutes.
Backed by local franchisees Tyler Young and Paul Nair and Mick Patel of Savi Provisions, PizzaForno in Buckhead is located at the Arco gas station on Roswell Road, where Nair also oversees food there under the brand UPop or Urban Provisions Offering Petroleum. The trio plan to open two more locations in late May, with the possibility of 50 additional locations across metro Atlanta in the future.
While the second and third Atlanta locations have yet to be revealed, a quick internet search found that PizzaForno could be headed to Star Metals on Howell Mill Road, close to Savi Provisions and Northside Tavern. An eagle-eyed tipster tells Eater a PizzaForno is also located at the Savi Provisions on Dresden Drive in Brookhaven.
Here’s how PizzaForno works:
- Order and pay for pizzas using the digital screen on the machine or via the app.
- Once an order is placed, a robotic arm takes the customer’s selected uncooked (not frozen) pizza from a refrigerated section of the machine and places it in a convection oven.
- When the pizza finishes baking (again, three minutes,) it’s put into a box which pops out of a slot in the front of the machine just like an ATM.
- According to PizzaForno’s website, pizza comes with a sell-by-date of three days and machines are regularly stocked with fresh pizzas, with other pizzas removed if passed the three-day shelf life.
Each vending machine contains 70 12-inch pizzas and a menu featuring eight types of pies, including pepperoni, barbecue chicken, Hawaiian, and vegetarian, ranging from $10 to $13. However, PizzaForno does not offer gluten-free or vegan pizzas.
A grand opening event for the PizzaForno vending machine in Buckhead takes place Saturday, May 6, from 12 p.m. to 4 p.m., with free pizza and giveaways all afternoon.
Before pooh-poohing the idea of a robotic pizzeria, one must look to its server-free street food cousin the automat. Visitors to Amsterdam are likely familiar with the automat, as the Dutch city features several around town.
These glass-faced, temperature-controlled food dispensers were invented in Berlin in 1895, with the Horn and Hardart company bringing the automat to the U.S. in the early 20th century. The first automat in America opened in Philadelphia in 1902, followed by New York City in 1912. The automat saw exponential growth in the country after the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic subsided, peaking in popularity during the 1950s and 1960s. The last automat in the U.S. closed in 1991, a legendary location on East 42nd Street at Third Avenue in New York City.
In 2021, automat restaurant Brooklyn Dumpling Shop announced plans to open five locations in Atlanta, run by franchisee Patrick Fisher, as part of Fransmart, the company behind Five Guys Burgers and the Halal Guys. It’s unclear when or if these locations are still in the works, but it appears PizzaForno beat the dumpling-dispensing restaurant from New York to the punch in Atlanta.
3861 Roswell Road, Atlanta. pizzaforno.com.