Pi Co. vs. Pizza Forno
by Will Novosedlik
Artisanal or automated Artisanal? Welcome to the battle of the bodies and the bots
Coming out of a meeting in Toronto last week to forage for food, my colleagues and I found ourselves in the middle of a kind of pizza vortex. On one side of the street, embedded in a wall was a fresh new automated pizza machine (or vending machine) branded ‘Pizza Forno’. It promised ‘artisanal’ pizza in 3 minutes for about fifteen bucks.”
On the other side, taking up considerably more space, but compact nonetheless, stood Pi Co., an actual storefront pizzeria manned by flesh and blood pizza makers. It promised ‘artisanal’ pizza in 90 seconds, also for about fifteen bucks.
It was like being in a live MBA business case. Two new variations on the theme of ‘pizza’ duke it out just off to the side of Toronto’s retail golden mile. Same price. Same product. “What’s the differentiator?,” asks the marketing professor. “Who we gonna go with?” asked my colleagues.
My colleagues, it should be mentioned, are not scared of technology. But I’ll admit, we hesitated at Pizza Forno. A robot making my pizza? Just not sure about that. Plus, it was cold and the thought of waiting even for three minutes seemed unnecessarily painful. So we crossed the street. Maybe we thought the humans could at least be yelled at if they didn’t deliver.
But Pi Co. delivered. You choose your own toppings, and after ninety seconds in a 1000° C oven, you have a piping hot, fully baked Neapolitan pizza in your hands, scorch marks and all. Takes you longer to choose the toppings than it does for them to make the pizza.
So did we go with the humans because we didn’t trust the bots? I’ll venture to say we did. Just felt right. If warm bodies can be employed to deliver an experience I’m happy with, I’ll choose that over bots every time. In fairness, I haven’t tried Pizza Forno’s product. It could be great. It’s had decent reviews. And if it’s the way it looks on screen, then it may be very tasty. But it is, at the end of the day, a stack of frozen pizzas on a rack waiting for someone to push a button.
The romantic slo-mo video of the pizza being made by hand is meant to stimulate your taste buds and distract you from the fact that your pizza is being baked by a bot.
In a way, these two brands expose a juxtaposition in the zeitgeist between our relentless desire for the highest quality and our need to have it right now.
In the old days, the rule was you could get two of the three following options: cheap, fast or high quality. Clearly these two pizza brands are competing on the latter two options, because they aren’t cheap. They’re both pitching quality and speed. Assuming the Pizza Forno product is as good as Pi Co., the only difference is the experience. It comes down to “do you want your pizza made by a body or a bot?”