CEO Benson Tsai (front) with partners Brian Langone and James Wahawisan are launching the automated Stellar Pizza. / Photo courtesy of Stellar Pizza
The soon-to-debut robotic truck Stellar Pizza has won some love from Jay-Z.
Stellar Pizza on Monday announced a $16.5 million Series A financing round, led by Jay-Z’s venture capital firm Marcy Venture Partners. The automated pizza truck previously raised $9 million in fundraising rounds led by Root Ventures, with participation from Crosslink Capital and Collaborative Fund.
The concept is an automated food truck designed by former SpaceX engineers that include CEO Benson Tsai. Serviced out of a commissary, the trucks can be operated with one driver and have the capacity of producing about 420 custom 12-inch pies before reloading.
Stellar will offer pizzas, made in about 5 minutes in the truck’s automated system, but Tsai has hinted that the labor-and real estate-light concept has potential for other food categories that are best served hot and fresh, like fried chicken or fries.
The first Stellar Pizza truck is scheduled to launch this fall at the University of Southern California campus in Los Angeles, with other college and university campuses to follow.
The goal is to develop a fleet of automated pizza trucks that could become a national brand.
The Stellar Pizza team includes former SpaceX executive chef and director of culinary services Ted Cizma. Noted artisan pizza chef Noel Brohner also provided creative oversight.
Stellar Pizza is among a number of automated pizza concepts that are proliferating as technology evolves and restaurant operators seek out more efficient models for generating revenue.
Automated operations that lean more toward vending machines include Picnic Works; Nala Robotics and Piestro Pods.
Nala Robotics, for example makes Pizzaiola, a robotic kitchen that can also produce pizza, burgers, pasta and wings. Capriotti’s earlier this year said it would be testing a Piestro Pod at a flagship location in Las Vegas. And the automated drive-thru startup Speedy Eats in August said it would use Picnic Works for pizza when its first restaurant opens in Baton Rouge, La., next year.
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