Toyota, Pizza Hut want to deliver fresh-cooked pies in autonomous pickup

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Pizza Hut combines two of America's favorite pastimes – pizza and pick-ups – in an attempt to shorten delivery times as the fast-food competition warms up.

In the context of the latest collaboration of the restaurant with Toyota Motor Corp, Pizza Hut has unveiled a robot-driven mobile pizza factory in the bed of a modified Toyota tundra. The prototype uses automated technology to prepare cakes in six to seven minutes, allowing the chain to expand the delivery area without the pizzas becoming cold.

"We bring the oven closer to the door of the consumer, nobody does that," said the head customer and operations officer of Pizza Hut in the US, Nicolas Burquier, in an interview. "We are pretty obsessed with improving the customer experience: the more we get closer to home or the point of delivery, the better and hotter the product will be."

The chain, a unit of Yum! Brands Inc. strives to circumvent its lagging delivery performance and reach customers that go beyond their sit-down destination. It was a difficult road so far, with the registration of Pizza Hut a surprise drop in sales in the same stores in the second quarter. It reports the results for the last quarter on Wednesday.

There is no target date for the debut of the robot pizza maker, Burquier said.

The announcement of Pizza Hut follows an agreement in January to participate in Toyota's mobility alliance that will develop fully autonomous vehicles. However, the hydrogen-powered tundra used in the partnership will not be self-propelled, Burquier said.