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April 2021

It’s Not Delivery, It’s Smart Pizza

By Scott Kauffman

For decades, the pizza business has been at the forefront of food-service innovation.

Of course, one of the original delivery-service distributors was Domino’s Pizza, which mastered the cutting-edge concept of taking pizza orders over the phone and driving them to your doorstep with a “30-minute guarantee” in the 1980s.  Now, French company API Tech is trying to reduce even more food-service friction with the innovative Smart Pizza vending machine that delivers fresh-cooked pies with the simple push of a button.

The creative concept was recently brought to golf’s food fore by Ed Doyle, whose Cambridge. Massachusetts-based consulting firm RealFood was acquired by Troon two years ago as part of the management company’s efforts to gain a stronger foothold in the food and beverage industry.

As Doyle described it during a recent webinar on the future of clubhouse design and operations, Covid-19 became “an accelerator” of sorts that not only forced operators to think differently in how it went about doing business last year, but is “giving us new latitude” to really try some innovative new things.

“Remember, innovation is a new idea, a new method or new device,” said Doyle, who is now Troon’s vice president of food and beverage. “It’s novelty, and not novelty in the idea of some whimsical undertaking. It’s something that is carefully thought out, but it is something that is introduced as a truly new way.

“And we have such a frequent user base in the club world that it is easy for our members and our guests and our visitors to become just part of that same mechanism or thing that we do. So break that cycle and really innovate and bring in a new idea.”

And perhaps one far-flung food idea to try is the Smart Pizza “Julia” model, currently operating in 300-plus predominantly European places. Now, the tech company plans to bring its Smart Baguette/Smart Pizza food-tech concepts to U.S. markets, according to API Tech North America business development director Detlev Goedbloed.

During the week of the PGA Merchandise Show/NGCOA Golf Business Conference, Goedbloed said the company is receiving “a lot of inquiries” and expects to have five machines installed this year in Dallas, Los Angeles, New York City, Chicago and Pompano Beach, Florida, for demonstration purposes.

The standalone vending machines can be installed inside or outdoors and so long as Covid-19 is a concern, the ability to make and deliver food without human interaction is one plus, according to a new pizzeria client in Bristol, England. The Julia model has the capacity to hold 96 ‘par-baked’ or partially cooked pizzas and dispenses two “restaurant-quality pizzas in three minutes,” Goedbloed added, with eventual mobile app ordering capability later this year.

The machines start at $73,499 and Goedbloed said some of the company’s best performing Smart Pizzas generate $12,000-$21,000 in monthly sales revenue.

“(The USA) is quite behind compared to Europe and Asia when it comes to innovation, and the significant amount of red tape is probably the main reason for this,” Goedbloed added. “It’s very costly and difficult for start-ups and food tech companies to navigate through the red tape. If our projections and market studies are correct, I believe the States will take some time to accept this ‘new’ method of ordering food.

“However, something that definitely helped the food tech industry so far was Covid. (The virus) significantly helped food tech companies in 2020, and you will find out companies that invested in or are offering food tech did extremely well last year.”

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