Xavier University just invented the Pizza ATM. The world’s first, according to many prominent online periodicals, implying that there was some Cold War-esque race with the nations of the world to produce this technological wonder.
In addition to the afterglow of discovering a new and exciting novelty, some people have voiced the concern that this might be a threat to pizza industry, or more specifically the pizzerias of the world.
Relax, World. Vending machines that churned out coffee didn’t kill coffee shops. And it’s true that services like Netflix and Redbox contributed to the downfall of the video store, but consider what you’re comparing.
Pizza is a much loved food item and the business surrounding it isn’t going anywhere. This vending machine seems cool, but so far all I’ve seen are food-tricked photos that go in restaurant menus and cookbooks. What I haven’t seen is what goes on inside of the machine.
First you have a computer screen that allows you to choose what kind of pizza you want. Okay, does it let you customize your order? Are the ingredients kept separate and the final product tailored to the customer’s exact requirements? If so, are the mechanics behind such a device routinely maintained and sanitized to prevent cross contamination? Or, and this is more likely, is the machine full of pre-made pizzas that are simply frozen and then heated up? In either case, there’s a concern surrounding a machine that keeps food at the necessary temperature to keep it from going to waste as well as cooking it to the appropriate food safety standards. Anytime you’re putting a computer or a machine in charge of such a thing, there is a chance of a major screw up that could lead to health problems.
Okay, the machine is at the university and all of my concerns are being addressed by the students. But is that guarantee in place when this machine goes commercial, and you can find it at bus stops, airport terminals, and other ambiguously clean environments?
Going to a pizza place may be expensive, but there’s a reason why people are still doing it. Going out to do something is still in and we are in a time when handmade artisan products are being celebrated. If you go to a pizza place every single day, that might ruin your bank account, but if you’re like my family, pizza is a great treat. If the Star Trek replicator were a reality, you still couldn’t reproduce the smell of the pizzeria, the arcade games that let you kill time waiting for your order, the long term relationships formed with the owner and the staff. Entire generations go to these places to talk and share good times and form memories.
No ATM in the world could give you that experience. The Pizza ATM is cute and fun, but it’s not going to threaten your bottom line if you’re a pizzeria owner. More likely, if such a thing really is a threat to your business, then you should probably take a closer look at your business because there’s something you’ve overlooked.