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Zume Expands Its High-Tech Pizza to East Bay Streets

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And a new collaboration with chef Jen Biesty


The Bay Area’s list of restaurants with robotic participation — where a non-human prepares at least some portion of the food — has been steadily growing over the past few years. Zume Pizza, which has been using robots at various parts of its pizza production since day one, has continued to add technology along the way.

Now, its expanding its mobile kitchen set-up to the East Bay, specifically the area surrounding Dublin and Livermore. Since it launched, the Mountain View-based pizza company has expanded further into the Peninsula and South Bay, including Los Gatos and San Jose.

A brief reminder of how Zume works: pies are prepared at a commissary kitchen, where robots do tasks such as saucing the pizza and lifting it in and out of the oven. Uncooked pizzas are loaded into a truck, and kept refrigerated until an order is placed. The truck parks in a central location that is determined by Zume’s backend technology to be a busy ordering area acting as a mobile kitchen that bakes pizzas on-demand in customized ovens. Delivery drivers pick up the orders from each mobile kitchen.

The East Bay expansion is a bit of a test run, says Zume’s president, Rhonda Woolf. “We are trying to expand in a way that makes sense for our commissary,” says Woolf. “This is further than our trucks have historically traveled, so we’re putting a toe in the water to see how that works operationally, working through how to open a central kitchen.”

That means that the company’s growing fleet of trucks (there are now 10 with two more on the way) could soon be found in Berkeley, Oakland, and San Francisco. Though the company is able to rapidly expand into areas with short notice and move locations throughout to day to areas with higher order volumes, there are still some permits required.

Increased volume has also allowed the company to scale down prices. Large pizzas range from $9.99 for a cheese pizza to $17.99 for specialty pies. For context, a 15-inch cheese pizza at East Bay chain Lanesplitter goes for $20; a 14-inch cheese pizza from Domino’s is $15.99.

“Going to market without brick-and-mortar has been great for us, and we’ve been able to pass some of that advantageous cost structure along to customers with better ingredients and lower prices,” says Woolf. “We are now competitive with most of the big national chains, and we’re really proud of that.”

Collaborations with local chefs are also en route via Pies With Purpose, a program pairing local chefs with Zume chef Eric Bauer to create specialty pizzas for charity. The first up: a “The Spaniard” from Oakland chef Jen Biesty (Shakewell). It’s a 14-inch pizza with piquillo pepper sauce, dry Spanish chorizo, Picholine olives, manchego and mozzarella cheeses, and saffron onions ($17.99); it’s available from April 12 through May 16, in Zume’s service area, with ten percent of sales going to Oakland Parks and Recreation Foundation.

Stay tuned for more news on when and where Zume might go next.