Expanding on a pizza-mobility partnership launched this year, Plano, Texas, neighbors Toyota and Pizza Hut have created a prototype Tundra pickup truck with robot arms that can bake and package a pizza while on the road.
The Tundra PIE Pro, powered by a hydrogen fuel cell, will help the nation’s second-largest pizza chain boost its increasingly important delivery business and help Toyota expand its brand image as more than just a car and truck company.
The prototype, not yet in service, debuted last week at Toyota’s 2018 Specialty Equipment Market Association show in Las Vegas and will spend the next several months on display at other trade shows.
Delivery is the fastest-growing area of Pizza Hut’s business, so the chain hopes the rolling cook station will improve the quality of the pie, said Nicolas Burquier, Pizza Hut chief customer and operations officer.
“We want to learn,” he said. “We want to collect feedback and data so that we can improve the process and drive something incremental to what we are doing today. “
For decades, Pizza Hut was the nation’s largest pizza chain. That changed last year. In 2017, rival Domino’s posted $5.93 billion in U.S. sales, up 11.1 percent from 2016, according to Chicago-based research firm Technomic. By comparison, Pizza Hut’s sales declined by 4 percent to $5.51 billion.
The company is trying a number of options, including heat-retaining pouches, to boost sales. The pizza truck is a reconfigured Toyota Tundra, the company’s full-size pickup that’s made in San Antonio. The truck bed is outfitted with two robot arms, a pizza fridge and an oven similar to ones used in some locations.
For now, the truck bed is open. For real-world use, “we would create a plexiglass cover for the ‘kitchen’ in the bed of the truck,” said Toyota spokesman Greg Thome.
In January, Toyota and Pizza Hut announced plans to have an autonomous pizza delivery vehicle by 2020. Those plans are on track, Burquier said.
The pizza truck unveiled Tuesday uses humans to drive and deliver the pizza to the consumer’s door. Nachi Robotics North America, based in Novi, Mich., made the mechanical arms.