Slices of Insight: Kitchen Robots Are Coming. Where Will They Show Up First?

Scott Erickson, CMO

It seems like each week there’s a story about a new kitchen robot that’s built to take the burden off under-staffed kitchens.
At Picnic, we love to see new kitchen automation. We see the real benefits of saving time, money, and labor–especially at a time when those resources are so precious.

But some people raise concerns that robots will steal jobs or that food quality won’t be on par with human-made meals. So we asked 1,000 Americans for insight into how they think about kitchen technology.

As we sliced and diced the data in various ways, some unexpected trends emerged that offered predictions of where automation is likely to happen first. By region and state, we can see consumer attitudes about automation that may just predict how the market will move.

Why is kitchen automation important?

Diners have a lot of interest in kitchen automation. I cover some of this in earlier posts on consistent pizza quality and pizza automation but some key points merit repeating.

First, the top thing that Americans want with their pizza—above great ingredients and fair price—is consistency. Getting the pizza you expect when you order it is a customer’s number-one desire. Yet when you have labor shortages or inconsistent staff, the likelihood of a consistent pizza is pretty low.

Inconsistent labor equals inconsistent quality which equals lower customer satisfaction. Kitchen automation can solve that inconsistency. Robots don’t quit, they don’t call in sick, and they make the same pizza each and every time.

But does this mean that robots will steal jobs? In a word: no. Post-pandemic, U.S. foodservice and hospitality open jobs ballooned to over 1.4 million (up from 800,000 pre-pandemic). When you add the rise of virtual kitchens, 24/7 food delivery, and America’s increased appetite for quick meals delivered fast, the labor demand on restaurants is higher than it’s ever been.

Kitchen robots aren’t replacing jobs, they’re replacing help wanted signs

Picnic believes in more of a “cobot” approach where the technology is there to help employees. We want to make kitchen jobs easier by automating the repetitive tasks so people can do more valuable roles like serving guests.

In our survey, Americans told us that adding automation does not compromise quality, hurt brand perception, or turn away customers. Two-thirds of Americans believe automation will help ensure pizza consistency and a third feel that pizza quality will increase with automation.

Where will kitchen automation appear first?

In looking at our survey data, we were able to triangulate questions to find data patterns that can predict where automation may appear first. Respondents were asked if they believed kitchen automation was the wave of the future, if they felt automation would make pizza orders more consistent, and how interested they would be in seeing the robots at work.

Across the U.S., about 50% of participants felt that automation was the wave of the future and that it could make pizzas more consistent. Regionally, the West and the South were slightly more excited about the futuristic technology at 54% and 53% respectively. People in the West and Midwest were more interested in seeing the machines at work than in other regions. Households with children also remarked that they felt their children would especially enjoy seeing the machines at work.

Our survey indicates that the West is most likely to adopt robotic kitchen automation first, followed closely by the South, then the Midwest, and then the Northeast. The states that had the highest interest in kitchen automation in each region were California, Texas, Minnesota, and New York. For a great example of one energetic customer in Texas, check out our case study on Texas A&M University.


Wherever you live, you’re likely to see more news and excitement around automation in foodservice. From robo-fryers to autonomous baristas, restaurants are finding the added benefits of adding automation to their existing staff. Diners are excited about the benefits of pizza automation and are looking forward to seeing the high-tech employee the next time they dine out.

Helping Picnic Customers Succeed: Vincent Liew and Sally Hall

Every smart business operator knows that to grow successfully, you need to retain your customer base. That’s why Picnic focuses on providing world-class customer support through stellar employees such as Vincent Liew and Sally Hall.

With more than 15 years of customer success management experience each, Sally and Vincent have both been with Picnic since 2021 and focus on providing integral support and service for the company.

What does a customer success role look like at Picnic?

Vincent is the first to dive into the details of what his role entails and how Picnic puts customers at the heart of everything. He starts, “we are customer success, and that encompasses both support and services. We don’t do technical support, that’s usually left to the field service engineers. However, we need to know enough to be dangerous.”

He continues, “our role is as liaison between the customer and our services, our engineering teams, and so forth. We want to speak for the customer but also be the conduit that transfers information and feedback to the engineering and product teams.

We have our hand on the pulse of the customer to read what their current sentiment is. We try to understand what their status is, their feelings toward the Picnic Pizza Station, and ensure that they receive value from their investment and partnership with us.”

Sally adds that “it’s also our role to advocate for the customers within Picnic. We share what we hear directly from external customers. We are in the kitchens more than engineers, so we see the station in use. We help prioritize some of the requests or push for certain updates and really escalate pain points.”

From software to hardware

Sally was in software for 15 years before Picnic. “I’d been in the same field for quite some time, and I was ready for a change. A person I worked for at my last company was working at Picnic and brought me over, and I absolutely loved working with her. So when I learned more about Picnic, I was really excited about robotics and about learning more about this new industry. The people at Picnic are amazing, and it was just a really exciting opportunity. It made me want to take a chance on something new.”

Before Picnic, Vincent spent his days in various customer success post-sales roles, focusing mainly on customer advocacy and service delivery, with a particular emphasis on the software as a service (SaaS) domain space. His previous experience includes stints with companies including Microsoft, Apptio, Auth0, Amperity, Sprinklr, Conversocial, and many more.

He shares his journey to joining Picnic: “I was approached by a recruiting company and introduced to the VP of Customer Success.  The main “hook” was when I was asked if I’ve ever heard of Robotics-as-a-Service and if I was intrigued with food automation. It just blew me away that I’ve been in the SaaS domain for decades, and RaaS was such a new term and domain space for me. Not to mention an opportunity to contribute to a new space and participate in food automation.  Let alone an AI-driven, robotic pizza-making station?

It was a combination of conversations with my hiring manager and the opportunity to connect with Clayton personally that sold me on joining Picnic.  ‘Where’s my seat on this rocket and where do I hold on?’”

Feedback and responsibility

Vincent sees his role as an essential link between the customer and Picnic. He tells us, “feedback from teams and partners of Picnic is important. Customers provide feedback so that we can improve our products, and it’s invaluable information.”

He continues, “they know that Picnic is cutting-edge technology, and they’re willing to ride this rocket ship with us and provide that feedback in good and bad times. Kinda like a marriage where there are good times, and there are bad times, and we’re here to ensure that that communication tunnel is continually going back and forth.”

Sally adds, “the feedback loop and keeping it fresh in people’s minds is so important—especially where we have a bug, and we have a workaround.”

The importance of good customer service

“I think Picnic has outstanding customer success,” says Sally. “One of the things we get the best feedback on is our support and how we work with customers. We’re very high touch, and I’ve heard it referred to as white-glove. We’re extremely responsive if we don’t have someone that’s available to go on-site immediately. Picnic as a whole is very dedicated to making sure we’re fostering that kind of environment.”

She goes on to say, “I think as long as the customer feels like they can trust you and you’re being very transparent about the good and the bad. We try to be very understanding of our customers and how issues impact their business from day to day.”

A day in the life of a customer success manager

Vincent and Sally are completely committed to being available points of contact for customers throughout the week. On a day-to-day basis, their roles are varied, with an emphasis on prioritizing any infield issues.

Outside of solving problems for customers, Vincent and Sally spend their time ensuring that they report back to Picnic about how customers are using the Picnic Pizza Station and what they’re producing works. “That’s a great indicator that everything’s going smoothly and it’s successful for the customer,” says Vincent.

He continues by sharing that “we have check-ins with our customers to ensure good customer health and hygiene, that everything’s going well, they’re happy with their investment, and there’s nothing that has come up that may be a risk factor.”

Vincent is keen to refer back to the feedback loop and how that provides constant insights to the Picnic team. “It could be working with our program managers on some new process that they’re implementing or testing our new ERP and providing feedback there, or working with our sales teams and helping them position a new customer and coordinating having potential customers come to a demo site.”

To help the team prioritize their workload, Picnic uses Jira as their ticketing system, and Sally shares that HubSpot is the company’s choice for customer relationship management.

Life outside of the pizza box

Picnic encourages employees to explore their interests and hobbies outside of work. Sally shares that she is “obsessed with college football” and spends time volunteering with the Junior League in Austin. She also recently got a new foster dog, who she’s enjoying getting to know.

Vincent spends his free time focusing on his family. He has a super supportive wife and two young children, whom he spends most of his time doting on. He also loves cooking, baking, and hiking. “I’m originally from Vancouver, BC, so we love doing all the outdoor stuff, even if it’s raining out!”

Sound like a company you want to be part of? Learn more about careers at Picnic.

Clarity and Control: Introducing the Picnic Hub

Hands up, who feels rushed off their feet at the moment?

With seemingly never-ending supply chain concerns and staffing issues, it’s no surprise that many pizza restaurant owners are feeling the heat in more ways than one.

And that’s why Picnic exists—to help make your life a little easier. We give you support when you need it most, so you can spend more time focusing on the areas of your business that drive results.

To run a successful business and keep your head above water, you need to be operationally effective and efficient. That starts with a solid grasp of your operations to enable better decision making–not easy things to keep track of when you’re focusing on solving a million other problems. This is why we built the Picnic Hub, now available to current Picnic customers.

Clarity and control

You’re already used to the Picnic Pizza Station giving you consistency, and now we’re adding clarity and control into the mix.

While the station ensures that you can save money and time by automating the most labor-intensive parts of your business, the Picnic Hub surfaces must-know data from your Picnic Pizza Station to give you a birds-eye view of how your kitchen operations are actually going.

Use the Picnic Hub to make informed decisions about purchasing and scheduling.

By accessing your own analytics and insights that show how many pizzas your store made, what types of pizza were made, and when they were made were completed, you can start to make informed, data-driven decisions about the future of your business. And that’s not all. The Picnic Hub comes with additional features, including:

Improve quality control

Order history list enables you to verify that orders were entered into the station correctly when they entered the system and how long they took to prep.

Refine operations

Data from your pizza-making operations enables you to make informed decisions. Export data and run reports to get a detailed look at how effective your kitchen is—whether you’re remote or on the go.

See how quickly your pizzas are getting to customers and how many pizzas you’ve made in a given timeframe.

Estimate ingredient usage

Based on your recipe, Picnic Hub estimates the volume of ingredients used in a specified period, giving you a better sense of when to reorder, and reducing ingredient outages or waste due to overordering.

Data-informed decision-making

Making business decisions based on a hunch won’t get you anywhere fast. By using the Picnic Hub, you’ll access the data points you need to get an operational advantage that sets you apart from the competition.

It’s time to stop the guesswork and make business decisions about your kitchen operations using data.

The Picnic Hub is a standard feature of your Picnic Pizza Station agreement. Ready to learn more? Contact your Customer Success Manager today.

One-woman IT Team: Keeping Things Running with Diana Nguyen

Diana Nguyen is a real MVP at Picnic. In her role as a one-woman IT team, she’s responsible for ensuring that all internal infrastructure is always up and running—a task that she takes pride in while also enjoying the adrenaline rush of last-minute problem-solving. Without Diana, if there were an IT issue, the company would struggle to continue to operate.

“I love the diversity of the role because you can come in one day and there are no tickets, and then BAM, in the middle of the day, something goes wrong, and I have to jump in and problem solve,” she says, with excitement. It seems that the element of surprise and no two days being the same makes Diana tick.

A new challenge every day

After working in the IT industry for a number of years, Diana found her home at Picnic after contracting with the company for three months. Now, she manages everything information and technology-based, including the office internet, servers, desktops, new software installations (such as Slack, Jira, and OneDrive), and vendor access to systems.

“Some days, I’m updating server patches, some days I get asked to help people with SharePoint, or a vendor needs help with one of our files. Or, I need to install OneDrive and sync the storage with folders or integrate Slack with other software apps. Sometimes, I do audio-visual support like setting up the conference room and making sure everything is running smoothly,” she tells us from the Picnic office.

Diana started her journey to becoming part of the Picnic team by studying IT at Bellevue College. She then moved into an internship at Premera Blue Cross, a healthcare company. There, she focused on developing IT skills and customer relationships before moving on to IT roles at companies like Nordstrom and the Gates Foundation.

“I also used to work at another company called Zume Pizza, and they did a similar food automation concept to Picnic, and that’s how I got into food automation, and I love it. I love being able to see technology change and help others because food automation helps eliminate labor costs and food waste.”

Customer-focused, rewarding work

Reporting to the VP of Systems and Software, Diana uses critical thinking and communication skills to keep things running smoothly and succeed in her role. She says, “critical thinking is the most important skill, and being able to adapt to situations and then ask questions and keep learning.”

“I love being able to see technology change and help others because food automation helps eliminate labor costs and food waste.”

Diana says that the most rewarding part of her role is “building customer relationships and working with users to build that relationship with them,” along with focusing on new hire onboarding. Diana is the first point of contact for new employees in the office, helping them get set up on the right systems and integrating them with the technologies in place around the office.

While work is mostly fun and engaging, and Diana is clearly passionate about her role at Picnic, at previous times, she’s felt a disconnect in her role based on her gender. With only 24% of computing jobs held by women and the percentage of female STEM graduates hovering around 19%, this information is hardly surprising.

“When I’ve been working in the past, I would literally be the only female in a team of five guys… So I think a lot of what I did previously was spending time trying to work around and trying to understand people’s different points of view.”

She goes on to say, “It’s really important to understand that everyone has a different background and has grown up differently. But, ultimately, at the end of the day, you’re all here for the same thing—collaboration and results.”


Life outside of Picnic HQ

Outside of being a badass IT manager, Diana spends her time travelling and loves to educate herself and learn about other cultures and traditions. A natural-born foodie, Diana also enjoys sampling different cuisine, fuelling up before hiking in the mountains around Seattle.

Family is important to Diana. She visits the Bay Area frequently to keep in touch with relatives and loves to spend time with her nephew. To relax, she spends time watching Netflix and bingeing on the latest shows (don’t we all!)

What motivates Diana to get up and at it is that Picnic prioritizes collaboration and openness. “No idea is a bad idea. Things are very transparent, and if you’re frustrated or challenged with an idea or concept, you can speak up, and the team will give you more information and support you. It’s a safe space where you feel heard and respected. And the pizza is pretty good, too!”

Sound like a company you want to be part of? Learn more about careers at Picnic.

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.

Food Delivery Apps: Who’s Winning?

Think back to the year 2000. Playstation 2 was the must-have console of the year, Destiny’s Child conquered the pop charts, Bush vs. Gore battled it out in the Florida recount, and pizza and Chinese were arguably the only two options for restaurant-quality food delivered to your home.

Fast-forward to today. Ordering food online, whether that’s a quick lunchtime salad bowl, a hearty round of fried chicken for dinner, or picking up the latest food trend coming out of a local ghost kitchen, is second nature.

We all know that apps are designed to be habitual and addictive to drive customer loyalty and repeat purchases, which is reflected in popular food delivery apps’ bulging financials. For example, in Q1 2022, UberEats posted revenues of $6.9 billion, a 136% increase from Q1 2021, and Doordash shared revenue earnings of 1.45 billion, an increase of 45% YOY.

As lockdowns and physical distancing due to the COVID-19 pandemic increased customer reliance on food delivery apps, what was the impact on the restaurant industry? How do businesses use food delivery services and automation to their advantage? Will food delivery apps stay around until the end of time?

We spoke to restaurant owners to find out why they partner with third-party delivery apps, how they see the benefits to their business, and what the challenges of using food delivery companies are.

Justin Tisdall, Juke Fried Chicken

Launched in 2016, Juke Fried Chicken is a fast-food restaurant located in Vancouver, BC’s historic Chinatown. The business focuses on providing the city with 100% gluten-free fried chicken, ribs, and locally sourced sides.

“Delivery gives you a marketing platform you can’t have now as an independent operator opening something new.” –Justin Tisdall

Delivery vs. indoor dining

“I used to work in a larger restaurant. It was always, like, a rainy Tuesday in February, no one would walk in, and we’d have 300 seats that were pretty close to empty. So with Juke, I thought, we have a small space, how do we generate the most revenue?

We wanted to make it easy to get into people’s houses instead of competing as a small restaurant against larger restaurants that might have more money, a bigger name, and a higher average guest check.

Our strategy was to get to the guests before they’ve even left their house. We were already strategizing what our system was going to be, how far our food would travel, what insurance looked like, how many drivers we thought we’d need… before these third-party delivery platforms came along.

Ours is a volume business. The more volume we do, the lower our labor is, and the better it is for us. We’re not limited by seats in a restaurant. Some places don’t do takeout and have 50 seats, so you can only turn those tables three times in one night. The max you can do is around 150 covers, right? In contrast, we have no limit to what we can put out.”

Third-party apps or in-house delivery services?

“We used third-party apps out of comfort and necessity. When you open, you’re an independent operator. You don’t have a ton of money or free time because everything you’re doing, you’re putting into the restaurant. So for us to really flesh out delivery is almost like adding a third part to our business, which would’ve been equally as much time to figure out. And once you’re open and the wheels are turning, it’s really hard to add a delivery model to it.

We were about a week or two in, and someone from DoorDash approached us.”

Right place, right time

Doordash was a new technological development that gave us an opportunity to expand our brand overnight. We created Jukes packaging — just like you have a pizza box, you have a Jukebox, which is our chicken box. And it was like, “get that green box in people’s houses!”

Cost-effective food delivery

“We negotiated with Doordash because we know that system and model of third-party delivery isn’t necessarily sustainable for a lot of restaurants. So we negotiated really, really hard on a super low commission rate and what minimum sales would be. Also, as part of our marketing budget, we paid the delivery fee for the first X amount of months or X amount of deliveries. We had nothing to lose.

At that time, Doordash was new, and the only people in Vancouver doing any delivery would be sushi or pizza, but there were enough restaurants making food like that. So I think that’s what our bargaining chip was.”

Business impact

“You have to look at it at two different periods of time: pre-COVID, post-COVID. Pre-COVID, it wasn’t always easy. Food delivery companies were new, and we were new to using them, so it took time to really work out a successful system. We worked with them on how their delivery drivers approach us and how they approach other businesses, and the best way to do that. There was a growth period to that, but then we also found that the market share’s a bit different.

We’ve been open now for six years. At first, there was one of us. Now, there are 30 other chicken competitors, and I’m sure 20 or so of them are on the same delivery apps. So we have to fight hard to maintain our market share, and we’re fortunate to do that.

During the pandemic, initially, we were incredibly worried because we didn’t know what was going to happen. But we got to work real quick and went through our whole menu. We realized we’re probably offering a little bit too much. So we cut our menu back, which helped.

Then obviously, delivery took off, and we were fortunate. We were a recognized name, we were consistent, we had a pretty good rating, and we also offered comfort food that people wanted in times of panic. Probably in a year or two, I’ll be able to look back on the first few months of the pandemic and see what the tipping point of good sales for us will be because now we have those numbers.”

Leveraging the power of the pop-up

Delivery gives you a marketing platform you can’t have now as an independent operator opening something new. For example, a few years ago, we were opening a vegan business. At the time, restaurant popups were on trend—everyone was doing a two-week popup here or two weeks there.

As a new business, we needed money in the bank. So I reached out to our delivery companies and said, “Look, how about we do a restaurant popup, you white-label us, just put our name up there, say brand new free delivery, and we won’t physically open our restaurant. You guys get exclusive access to us.”

With an online popup, it was a way we could work out our steps in the kitchen. We could practice our food and get feedback from the guests. It didn’t really cost us much.”

The future of food delivery

“There’s a small recession coming up, and interest rates are increasing, inflation’s increasing… but I don’t know if that’s going to change the way people are dining at home. Humans are working more, traveling to work further than we used… All this time adds up, and I think people just want good food they can trust in times of need.”

David Laulainen, Pizza Barbarella

Pizza Barbarella is a ten-year-old East Vancouver staple in the popular Fraserhood neighborhood. The business focuses on Neapolitan recipes with an NYC twist.

“If it were our way, we would not have delivery or pickup at all. We would have a dining experience, and that’s what it would be. We’re also very locally oriented, which you can’t always tell from delivery companies.” — David Laulainen

Delivery vs. indoor dining

“My business partner and I really didn’t start Barbarella necessarily for delivery. We started because we wanted to create a social hub that focuses on pizza, a good vibe, and an art gallery. We wanted to create a space to bring people together where they could share food and enjoy their lives. We were focused on families and the local community in terms of having a place to go.

Of course, not everyone wants to dine in, even before the virus was a word on everybody’s tongues. So we knew we needed to accommodate people who just wanted to eat at home, and pick things up, but also in terms of delivery. So we looked at those things fairly early on, but that wasn’t why we started the restaurant.

Delivery is something that we’ve done to accommodate the market. If it were our way, we would not have delivery or pickup at all. We would have a dining experience, and that’s what it would be. We’re also very locally oriented, which you can’t always tell from delivery companies.”

Third-party apps or in-house delivery services?

“We ended up going with the standard three: Doordash, Skip the Dishes, and UberEats. Those three partners had the easiest software and made it relatively easy for our front-of-house servers to use the systems.

There is an affordability to the convenience of having food either delivered or picked up, and we’ve seen delivery apps are now trying to get into the pickup business. Previously, this has been a resident or community-driven initiative, where customers would come down to the restaurant and pick stuff up on their own.

The affordability of this structure has to do with their commissions and the costs—not just the costs that they charge us in terms of margin, but also a cost that they charge to the customer. So the food delivery apps are actually feeding off both ends.

We have tried local, Vancouver-based food delivery businesses, but the adoption or onboarding of this new system can be very time-consuming. If the app isn’t designed to be customer or user-centered, then we don’t have time for it.

Google Trends shows us that DoorDash, UberEats, and Skip The Dishes are the prominent market-holders for the City of Vancouver. Everything’s fairly equal—they all have a third of the market and who knows what the other platforms have because they’re niche.

Business impact

“Late delivery is something you always hear about, and you’d expect that. But early arrival is something you don’t hear about as much. The drivers will get the ticket, and they’re supposed to arrive in 15 or 20 minutes, but then they come within five minutes, and then they go… or they come back, or they don’t show up.

The challenge is that there’s a cost to us as a business. We have to remake the pizzas because pizzas are one of those things that, after a certain time point, you can’t let it go out. So what the delivery companies need to realize is that they cost us money because of how the drivers show up or don’t show up. And that’s a cost that we have to absorb. It’s not something that we can go back to them and say, “Hey, you cost us 20 bucks of labor, food, and wastage that we have to throw away.

Apps need to be more business responsible.

Doordash recently started flagging our Hawaiian Punch pizza — our version of Hawaiian pizza with spicy capicola, hence the punch. But their algorithm decided that punch meant an alcoholic drink, therefore, our pizza was flagged. So only if you were 19+ could you buy that pizza.

These delivery companies require that any photo that you upload complies with their quality standards, but it takes them three to four days to approve a photo. The auditing system that takes forever. Sometimes it doesn’t even get done. Why are we not self-responsible for our own photographs? It’s their approach to audit and censorship that drives themselves to the wall.”

The future of hospitality

The cost of food, the cost of logistics, the cost of everything has gone up. But, surprisingly, what it’s impacted most is the fact that we can’t get local stuff. So for us, the delivery aspect is the smallest part of our problems.

If someone’s going to continue using delivery and there’s a premium for them to do that, ultimately, that’s their choice. It doesn’t really affect us unless there’s a breaking point, but I don’t know where that line is.

Just like tipping, at a certain point, the line shifts, and I think that’s what delivery companies are trying to figure out — how they can normalize fees so that their fees seem low in comparison to something else. I think there’s a deep strategy around how to prove their worth, I suppose.

And lastly, we don’t have any control over the impact that delivery is making on the environment, other than not using it, but if we don’t use it, then we don’t have delivery ourselves.”

All interviews have been edited for length and clarity. 

Buyer Personas, Target Market, and ICPs Explained

No matter the business you’re in, it’s crucial that you understand how to market your company to the right people. After all, if you don’t promote your business to the correct demographics, you’ll struggle to get the customers you want (and deserve!)

This article will help you to understand the valuable differences between a target market, a buyer persona, and an ICP, and explain how understanding each of these segments impacts your marketing campaigns so that you can deliver the most value to the right audience and drive more revenue.

Why you need to understand your audience

Let’s say you’ve had a bad day at the office. Two employees have handed in their notice, your veg order is late (again!), the dishwasher is on the fritz, and your KP just called in sick. Not an ideal scenario by any means.

You call your wife to vent, and your conversation is full of frustration and expletives. Next, you call your manager and position your scenario in a professional manner. The same message has gone to two different cohorts, and you’ve tailored your communications to be most impactful for each group.

This is why understanding your audience is important. If you’d communicated to your boss the same way you did to your wife, the message would likely not have been received the way it was intended. The same goes for your marketing. You need to have a deep insight into who you’re speaking to and communicating with for your message to be received the way you intend.

Target market

What is a target market?

A target market is a group of people with shared demographics that will likely be interested in your business. For example, your target market might be as simple and straightforward as “men who like Italian food aged 18-64” or more specific and niche, such as “health-conscious women aged 20-45 who are looking for plant-based alternatives to regular pizza”.

No matter the depth and detail of your target market, what’s most important is that you identify that market that relates strongly to your product or service. There’s no point tailoring your pizza messages to a celiac target audience if you don’t offer a gluten-free option, for example.

Why is understanding target market important?

Marketing is all about delivering the right message, to the right people, at the right time. How will you know who you craft your campaigns for if you don’t know who your target audience is? By understanding your target market, you automatically put yourself in the best position possible for your marketing campaigns to succeed.

Buyer persona

What is a buyer persona?

A buyer persona is a fictional representation of customers within your target market and helps you to get more specific when targeting your marketing campaigns. Of course, you can’t get to know each customer individually, so think of buyer personas as representing different customer groups within your target market, and you’re pretty much there.

Buyer personas are drawn up using deep audience research and insights to create a fictional picture of the different groups. This research is usually performed by your marketing team, but there are plenty of third-party companies that will help you research and build your buyer personas if you’re short on time.

You’ll need to gather information on your target audience’s interests, hobbies, behavioral traits, and key demographics such as age, location, spending power/ income, college degree, and language, and then formulate these into specific personas and groups.

To make things simple and clear, buyer personas usually have names such as Big Pizza Paul or Healthy Helens that represent the specific traits and groups of people. Big Pizza Paul, for example, could represent men who usually order a large pizza and have a lot of disposable income. On the other hand, Healthy Helens represent more health-conscious women.

Why is understanding buyer personas important?

Buyer personas help you to understand your customers better and allow you to tailor your campaigns to best suit your target audience’s needs, wants, and expectations.

For example, let’s say you’re launching a new vegan pizza line. Instead of targeting the launch messaging and campaign materials to all of your customer base, you could send it specifically to your persona group Healthy Helens, whose health-conscious interests and demographics align more with your new launch.

Using this type of strategy ensures that you’re not wasting your campaign budget or marketing resources targeting people who likely won’t be interested in your products and provides those that likely are interested with messaging and campaigns relevant to their interests. 

Ideal customer profile (ICP)

What is an ICP?

An ideal customer profile is a fictitious description of the types of companies that would get the most value from your company’s product.

Wait? Isn’t that a buyer persona?

While the two segments sound very similar, there are powerful differences between the two groups.

An ICP focuses more on the types of businesses that will give your company long-term value. For example, in the pizza industry, this might be Picnic, a supplier, or a POS company. ICPs are typically used more in business-to-business (B2B) activities rather than business-to-customer (B2C). However, understanding ICPs is helpful no matter what industry you find yourself in.

Useful data points and research to look at when building your ICPs are industry, company size, location, business model, estimated revenue, number of employees, pain points, and partners.

Why is building an ICP so powerful?

Focusing your attention on working with businesses that give your company a high return on investment and a long-term partnership will help you save money in the long run. By addressing the types of companies you want to work with, you can begin to target them more effectively.

Whatever marketing campaign you choose to run for your business, make sure that you keep in mind who you’re trying to reach. Utilize buyer personas, target markets, and ICPs to increase the likelihood of your message being received by the right people.

What Happens at a Picnic Pizza Station Installation?

You’ve ordered your brand-new Pizza Picnic Station, and the team has been briefed about its arrival. Everyone is excited to automate the pizza production process, deliver consistency, and save time, money, and labor costs. 

But what happens when it actually comes down to installing the station in its new home? How much involvement is required from your team? How many hours do you need to spend training and onboarding the Picnic Pizza Station? And most importantly, how long before you can start slinging the best pizzas on the block?

Onboarding with the Picnic Pizza Station takes place in three stages over 3-5 days:

We spoke with Jason Larkin, a Picnic field service engineer who manages and oversees installations across America. Jason gave us the lowdown on everything you need to know about installing a Picnic Pizza Station in your business.

Stage one: Arrival, unpacking, and installation

“The Picnic Pizza Station will arrive in four custom-made crates specifically designed for the machine. The onsite field service engineers will also arrive on site and unpack out of the crate.

The machine comes pre-assembled in three modules, and then all that needs to happen is the station gets hooked up. The actual installation portion can be done within a day.

Then, it’s just calibration that happens to make sure that all the ingredients get put in correctly, and we do a miniature test run with a couple of pizzas to ensure that the station is putting the ingredients in the right spot.

Most of the time, our customers want us to come in for the installation when they’re having a slow day or an off day when they’re not making pizzas. For example, we work with a lot of schools, including Texas A&M University. That customer had us come in when they didn’t need to make pizzas, and we installed the station while they were in downtime.

For customers who need to stay fully operational during installation, most of the time, the station isn’t blocking enough of the area to prevent people from making pizzas. So employees still have access to the majority of the kitchen space or area.”

Stage two: Training

“After the machine is set up and you’ve got the calibration ready to go, the operators get trained. We do full operator training for staff, as well train the staff managers. So, if the managerial team decides to bring on new employees, they can easily train them as well.

During training, we go over safety and how to operate the station. There are a multitude of safety features installed in the machine, and we cover what each one is there for and make sure that everyone involved uses the station correctly.

Then we cover how to address troubleshooting issues. For example, how to prime the station, load the station, and how to break down and clean the station. That way, you’re not having to worry about health or other inspections.

The actual operation of the machine is very simple. I trained three people recently on how to load pizzas, and it took me 15 minutes because that portion is straightforward. Training on safety and operational procedures takes the longest.

We spend a couple of days training staff and making sure that they understand how things work. And if any problems arise, we can address them with the customer right there and then. So we like to make sure that all the team completely understands how the whole machine works before we leave.

Stage three: Testing

After we’ve done the full training, some of our operators like to do a stress test.

We run a few dozen pizzas through the machine to assess how quickly operators are able to produce and how long it takes.

For example, one of the customers I went to recently timed to see how long it would take them to make the 50 pizzas.

Even with brand-new employees, they were able to get 100 pizzas out in one hour — almost double their original goal.


How long does the whole installation take?

About a week. We spend a day unpacking, installing, and calibrating, and then with training included for a few days, it usually ends up being a five-day process.

How does the Picnic Pizza Station work after installation?

The person will arrive in the morning, turn on the machine, and start loading up the sauce, cheese, pepperoni, and other toppings. Once you’ve got the ingredients ready, you go through and prime everything just to make sure you’re ready to make pizza. Once everything’s primed, place your order and then put the pizza right into the station. It’ll take the dough, take a picture of it, and then run through the station and put on all the ingredients you’ve selected.

Do you install overnight?

Generally, we’re not doing the installs overnight because most of our customers require staff to be on-site while we’re working. And a lot of places don’t like people on their site when there’s nobody from the business there, which is understandable.

What happens once everyone is trained and the machine is installed?

Generally, we stay around long enough so that we’re positive that the machine will work well and that there are no issues. And your Customer Success Manager is always a phone call or an email away. They will continue to check in with you to see how the station is working and how it’s improving your business.

How do I get a Picnic Pizza Station of my own?

It starts with a conversation. Contact our sales team and they’ll ask you more about your pizza business, your current issues, and your dreams for the future. If you’re looking to save time, money, and labor, a Picnic Pizza Station can be the right food automation solution for you.

Restaurant Automation 101: Online Reservation Systems

Whether you’re a small kitchen that’s just starting out or a huge multi-national restaurant with countless franchises, there’s one thing that will help you successfully manage customer expectations, promote customer loyalty, and streamline and strengthen your business: an online reservation system.

Why install an online reservation system?

With the automation market expected to grow to over $29.4 billion by 2027 and 50% of US restaurant operators considering implementing automation technology in the next two to three years, there’s no better time to start rolling out automation across your business. This begins with leveling up your online reservation system.

Reduce no-shows

It’s Saturday night and you’re fully booked. Your top table of four is awaiting its 9pm sitting. But hey, guess what? The customer never shows up, leaving you with an empty table and less revenue.

While this is a disappointing situation, it’s unfortunately not an uncommon one.

According to OpenTable, a staggering 28% of Americans say they haven’t shown up for a reservation in the past year. And this isn’t just a post-pandemic trend. In 2018, one popular UK restaurant lost £3,000 in a single weekend, prompting a movement on Twitter using the hashtag #StopNoShows to raise awareness about the impact of patrons failing to show up for a reservation.

To tackle the no-show crisis, businesses are installing online restaurant reservation systems to actively help reduce no-shows and utilizing automated technology to keep patrons engaged with their reservations.

For example, TouchBistro allows businesses to send automatic reminders about upcoming bookings and provides an opportunity for businesses and customers to communicate via SMS regarding reservations. Both of these actions keep customers in the loop about their upcoming booking and help prevent no-shows.

Source: Lightspeed HQ

Cut wait times

New York is known for its thriving and bustling food scene, and there’s no doubt that once a potential customer is interested, you want to get them through the door and hooked into your business as soon as possible.

Busy and popular ramen joint Ippudo NY knows this all too well. The hotspot was receiving 20 complaints per week from customers about wait times, with 12% of guests walking away from dining at the restaurant due to how long they had to line up for a table, meaning lost business and a downward trend in reputation.

After introducing a guest management system that helped the FOH staff better manage customer wait time expectations and provide timely updates via SMS to customers in the queue,  Ippudo NY experienced:

Examples like this show how automation can positively impact the bottom line, along with improving customer relations and experience.

Manage cancellations

Every customer has the right to cancel their booking within an appropriate time frame. Online reservation systems provide a seamless experience to make cancellations easy and straightforward. Apps such as OpenTable or Tock allow customers to cancel, modify, and reschedule their reservations at the swipe of a thumb, meaning less time spent by FOH taking phone calls and modifying resos’ and more time focusing on other areas of the customer experience.

Create predictability

First come, first served might seem hip and cool, but you’re often left with limited insight into how much inventory you need to order, how busy certain times of the day will be, and how to schedule staff correctly.

Installing an online restaurant reservation system will help you easily predict how many customers you can expect in your spot and help you adjust your plans accordingly.

Tap into the digital age

Apps and software are often designed to be addictive. If a customer gets used to tapping open an online reservation app such as OpenTable or Tock and creating a booking, that action could potentially become a habit due to the repetitive and addictive nature of apps and smartphones. This means more patronage and greater revenue for your business.

Improve customer experience

Many online reservation systems allow customers to input data such as whether they’re dining for a special occasion or have any food allergies. This information helps the server to serve the customer better and helps to create a positive experience and a longer-lasting relationship.

Restaurant reservation systems: what to consider

Before introducing an online restaurant reservation system to your business, take a few moments to consider the following.

Why automation is the future of restaurant management

Automation isn’t about replacing humans. Instead, it’s about streamlining and automating parts of your operation to reallocate attention to other areas of your business.

For example, implementing an online reservation system will free FOH from taking calls and managing bookings. Similarly, QR codes are here to stay, and this menu automation at the customer’s fingertips helps you save on server hours and labor (not to mention printing costs!)

Technological advancements and solutions also help ease the squeeze in the labor market. With hospitality workers quitting employment in droves, more businesses are turning to automation to help support their operations. For example, White Castle is launching burger flipping automation across a third of their restaurants across the US; McDonald’s is automating the drive-thru experience, and major league baseball stadiums are utilizing automation to produce hundreds of consistent pizzas with a single operator.

Automation is the future of restaurant management, and this all begins with improving your bookings, wait times, and customer experience by introducing an online reservation system.

Growth Strategies: Is a Customer Loyalty Program a Good Idea?

In the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic, 10% of all US food businesses permanently shut their doors, totaling just under 80,000 businesses no longer in operation. Those who successfully weathered the global crisis now contend with how to lure customers back after a prolonged two-year absence and get back on track to achieving growth goals.

Is introducing a customer loyalty program the answer to both these problems?

What is a customer loyalty program?

A customer loyalty program is a retention and growth strategy that rewards customers who purchase or engage with a business regularly rather than a competitor. The aim of a customer loyalty program is to incentivize shoppers to make repeat purchases, often by offering points, perks, coupons, merchandise, or other rewards.

Customer loyalty programs are popular for a reason. According to Harvard Business Review, businesses with strong customer loyalty programs grow their revenue 2.5x faster than their competition and generate 2-5x higher returns to shareholders.

It’s easy to think about customer loyalty programs as just giving freebies to customers. But this is far from the case. Instead, by equipping your business with technology, you can use customer data and insights to present customers with relevant offers and timely promotions that help them engage with a business and provide a significant opportunity for growth—without impacting the bottom line.

The most important thing to consider when thinking about whether or not to introduce a customer loyalty program is that it must be mutually beneficial for both the business and the customer. For example, it wouldn’t make any sense for a business to offer a customer loyalty program that costs them money without any returns on investment. Similarly, there has to be a worthwhile incentive for the customer to want to show their loyalty to your business.

What are the different types of customer loyalty programs?

Customer loyalty programs take many forms and will look different depending on the nature of your business. For example, a loyalty program for a coffee shop will be entirely different from a loyalty program for a steakhouse. Here are a few of the different loyalty programs available to food businesses.

Points-based loyalty programs

Points-based customer loyalty programs are the most common type of reward plan. Customers accumulate points that they redeem as credit towards their next purchase. Points are tracked through a loyalty card, mobile app, or an online account.

Customers typically earn points through making purchases with a business, but some operations may offer the opportunity to generate points through social shares, reviews, birthdays, or gamification.

Points-based loyalty programs need to be accessible. Launching a new points-based program that gives your customers 14 points for every $3 they spend will open the floodgates to customer confusion. Remember to keep it simple and easy to understand for the consumer (and yourself!)

Example: Domino’s Piece of the Pie Rewards

Tiered loyalty programs

Tiered loyalty programs focus on a membership model that allows customers to access different benefits depending on their ranking. Think of a tiered customer loyalty program as similar to a video game. Once you complete one level of spending, you unlock a new level with different perks and benefits.

Example: Wayback Burgers

Paid loyalty programs

Paid loyalty programs give customers access to recurring benefits and rewards for a monthly or annual fee. According to McKinsey, paid loyalty programs generate value by changing customer behavior—something restaurants and food businesses are looking for in a post-pandemic landscape.

Source: McKinsey

Of course, the most obvious example of a paid loyalty program is Amazon Prime, which boasts over 200 million members worldwide, growing 300% since 2015. Even better than that is that 98% of Americans renew their Prime membership every year. Not bad for a loyalty program.

Example: DoorDash DashPass


5 benefits of a loyalty program

1.   Drives repeat business and increase customer retention

The most obvious benefit is that introducing a loyalty program incentivizes customers to make repeat purchases with your business, and frequent purchases help to improve customer loyalty and retention.

2.   Increases customer referrals

If your customer loyalty program is brilliant, more people will tell their friends and family about it, helping to drive more word-of-mouth referrals and customers.

3.   Develops long-lasting relationships

Customer loyalty programs are called that because they increase loyal customers, which helps develop long-lasting relationships with a business.

4.   Increases cost-effectiveness

We all know that acquiring a new customer costs more than retaining an old one. A customer loyalty program is a cost-effective way to spend less on customer acquisition and focus on retaining your current customers.

5.   Maximize customer lifetime value

A customer’s lifetime value (LTV) is the average amount of money a customer will spend with your business over time. The longer a customer makes repeat purchases with you, the higher their LTV will be. So it makes sense that your most valuable customers are the ones that make frequent, high-value purchases. And guess what drives regular sales and purchases? Customer loyalty programs.

The challenges of a loyalty program

Implementing a customer loyalty program doesn’t come without its challenges. For example, there’s pressure on the business to perform at a high level during every engagement to retain loyalty. Additionally, customer loyalty programs can be complex to launch, especially if you opt for a non-points-based program.

You’ll also need to spend time measuring customer loyalty and potentially have a dedicated team member who manages this growth and retention strategy.

How to evaluate whether a customer loyalty program is the right choice

If you’re a business looking for a long-term customer acquisition strategy that helps you grow and scale, introducing a loyalty program might be the answer you’re looking for.

Rather than spending money on large discount offers to grow your customer base, which often results in guests who want to take advantage of a deal and never return, focus your efforts on the lifetime value of a customer. This growth strategy will help you ensure repeat customers, increase your LTV, lower your customer acquisition costs, and help to drive word-of-mouth referrals that scale your business.