November 17, 2018
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Pizza Hut will enlist robots in quest to slice delivery times

Gerald Herbert | AP
Gerald Herbert | AP
A Pizza Hut restaurant is seen in New Orleans, Dec. 15, 2016.

Pizza Hut is fusing two of America’s favorite pastimes — pizza pies and pickup trucks — in a bid to cut delivery times as fast-food competition heats up.

As part of the restaurant’s latest partnership with Toyota Motor Corp., Pizza Hut has unveiled a robot-operated mobile pizza factory in the bed of a modified Toyota Tundra. The prototype will use automated technology to cook pies on-the-go in six to seven minutes, letting the chain expand its delivery area without the pizzas getting cold.

“We’re bringing the oven closer to the consumer’s door; nobody is doing that,” Pizza Hut’s chief customer and operations officer in the U.S., Nicolas Burquier, said in an interview. “We are pretty obsessed with improving the customer experience. The more we can get closer to their homes or the point of delivery, the better and hotter the product will be.”

The chain, a unit of Yum! Brands Inc., is aiming to turn around its lagging delivery performance and reach customers beyond their sit-down destinations. It has been a tough road so far, with Pizza Hut logging a surprise drop in same-stores sales during the second quarter. It reports results for the latest quarter on Wednesday.

There’s no target date for the robotic pizza-maker’s debut, Burquier said.

Pizza Hut’s announcement comes on the heels of a January deal to join Toyota’s mobility alliance that’ll develop fully autonomous vehicles. However, the hydrogen-powered Tundra used in the partnership will not be self-driving, Burquier said.

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