Published November 22, 2022

5 Food Businesses that Are Automating to Innovate and Drive Growth

Restaurants and commercial kitchens contend with many factors to make them a success. This non-exhaustive list includes skilled labor, having the right equipment, adhering to good management practices, creating a stellar marketing plan, ensuring quality control, and abiding by regulations and policies around food handling and production. Phew!

If a food business is booming, these responsibilities intensify and can become even more challenging to manage. For example, let’s say your pizza restaurant is on trend and fully booked every night. This leaves you little choice but to increase production while still maintaining consistency. Additionally, you’ll need to fork out for increased labor costs as patronage also goes up — impacting your bottom line.

To help support their operation when things get heated and busy, more restaurants, QSRs, and fast-casual dining establishments are turning to automation to help increase their operation’s flexibility and scalability, improve quality and control, and help them navigate the ongoing labor shortage.

Benefits of automation in the hospitality industry

Increased flexibility and scalability

Automation gives you complete control over your output. It allows you to increase production and scale when needed — especially handy during busy times or if you’re considering increasing your opening hours without needing to level up employee hours and labor costs.

Improved quality and control

Food automation means improved quality and enhanced control over the end product. And the facts don’t lie. For example, through our partnership with Texas A&M, we learned that over 80% of the 73,000-student body reported automation from the Picnic Pizza Station helps create consistent pizzas. Automation also gives you 100% control of what comes out of your kitchen, helping you repeat customer-pleasing dishes at scale.

Save on labor costs

This one is kind of a big deal. Because automation—whether that’s serving food, taking orders and payments, cooking, or prepping ingredients—means that you can reduce your employee headcount, the strategy impacts your bottom line and saves you money.

Eliminate food waste

Food waste across the service industry poses significant risks and challenges for businesses and the wider environment. Not only does waste mean that food operations are throwing money away, but the impact of discarded food on the environment has also been well-documented — including how waste generates greenhouse gasses such as methane and carbon dioxide, which warms the planet and contributes to climate change.

To counter the food waste crisis, restaurants are turning to automation to help improve precision and cut down on discarded ingredients.

5 food businesses leveraging the power of automation

According to LightspeedHQ, 50% of US hospitality operators plan to leverage some form of automation by 2025, and 43% of industry respondents to the same survey either somewhat or strongly agree that ​​new technology adoption over the last two years has been critical for their business’ survival. Here are the ones already doing it.


Goodbye, server, and hello, Rita! Fast-casual chain Chili’s has been automating the meet ‘n’ greet portion of their customer experience with Rita the Robot, an automated server that guides guests to their seats, informs them of offers, and even pitches the Chili’s loyalty scheme. But the fun doesn’t stop there. Rita is also built to host and present food and sing happy birthday to patrons.


Yup, one of the world’s largest and most well-known pizza chains is exploring the wonder of food automation. With 3,400 stores across ten markets, the lucky team at a Domino’s location in Berlin, Germany, engaged in a successful pilot to test the benefits of using the Picnic Pizza Station to create world-class pizzas.

Don Meij, CEO and managing director of Domino’s says, “Our team has been working with Picnic to understand and fine-tune how assistive technology can be used to make their jobs easier without compromising on the quality, consistency, or taste that our customers know and love.”

White Castle

Ever heard of Flippy? The brainchild of Australian company Miso Robotics, Flippy is being installed at 100 White Castle locations across America. The robotic arm manages the hot, greasy, and dangerous task of dipping and withdrawing fryer baskets—an action that usually takes the work of two employees.

A considerable benefit of Flippy is that the automation process frees up employees to focus on customer service and improve order times—a metric that’s become 15-25% faster since installing the automation arm.


If you want a fried breakfast at 2am, you head to the nearest Denny’s… where you might find Servi, the robotic server from Bear Robotics.

Servi does the heavy lifting (literally) of running plates from the kitchen to the front of house section and is scooting across the floor of over 15 Denny’s locations across the US. A huge benefit of Servi is that as Denny’s is a 24-hour joint, the company found it tricky recruiting night workers, and Servi solves that problem.

MOTO Pizza

Seattle is known for many things, including rain, grunge, coffee, and Frasier. But did you know that the Emerald City also plays host to some of the best pizzas on the west coast? Enter MOTO Pizza, one of Seattle’s more innovative restaurants, serving up slices of pizza with creative toppings, including chopped clams with a beet sauce and spicy shrimp with pineapple pesto.

With wait times to get a slice of the action often running up to four months (yes, four whole months), MOTO has partnered with Picnic to install the Picnic Pizza Station at its newest location. The like-minded companies view the partnership as a step forward to reduce pressure on MOTO’s downtown kitchen and help feed more hungry customers. Talk about a match made in heaven!

Whether you’re thinking about automation for the first time or a seasoned pro who’s realized the value of food automation, there are significant savings and growth-led benefits to be had by automating parts of the food service process—not just for established businesses such as Domino’s and Chili’s, but for smaller, local businesses like MOTO.

Whatever your size, talk to Picnic to understand how your business can scale with food automation and the Picnic Pizza Station.