Costco's mesmerizing, pizza-making robot is an ominous sign for American retail jobs
- Costco sells pizza slices at its food courts for $1.99 each.
- The warehouse club is technically considered the 14th largest pizza chain in the United States.
- It has a series of systems — including a mechanical saucing machine — to ensure all of its pizzas are made consistently.
Costco shoppers can't get enough of its pizza.
The store is known for its low-cost but highly rated food courts, where customers can find respite from their shopping to enjoy a slice of pizza or a hot dog.
Because of Costco's large store count, it's considered the 14th largest pizza chain in the United States. A slice of one of its three flavors — cheese, pepperoni, or "combo" — costs $1.99, or $9.95 for a full 18-inch pie.
In a comparison with Sam's Club's pizza slices, Business Insider's Hollis Johnson dubbed Costco the winner because of its low price, selection, and overall taste.
"It's a good slice: unwieldy, but cheesy, salty, and extremely filling," he wrote.
But there is one secret to Costco's success in keeping its pizza slices consistent and tasty, and that is its mechanical saucing process, which distributes tomato sauce over the base of the pizza, Readers Digest reported.
This system not only makes it easy to prepare pizzas in bulk but ensures the sauce is spread evenly and all the way to the crust.
While this technique may be a good way to craft a tasty pizza, it's a chilling reminder that retail jobs are a prime target for automation.
In 2017, investment advisory firm Cornerstone Capital Group put together a report that indicated that between 6 million and 7.5 million retail jobs could become automated in the coming years, which would leave a large portion of the retail workforce at risk of becoming "stranded workers," it said.
About 16 million people, or one in 10 American workers, are employed in the retail industry.
Fast-food restaurants such as McDonald's and Wendy's have even started to automate the customer-facing side of their businesses by installing self-ordering kiosks. Smaller chains such as Eatsa and CaliBurger are working on automating the entire restaurant experience.
"With government driving up the cost of labor, it's driving down the number of jobs," then Carl's Jr. and Hardee's CEO Andy Puzder told Business Insider in 2016. "You're going to see automation not just in airports and grocery stores, but in restaurants."
The pizza process at Costco isn't entirely done by a machine, however, as employees do apply the cheese by hand.
Watch the pizza preparation video here:
According to Thrillist, Costco has other clever tricks for making its famous pizza.
Each pizza base is loaded into a flattening machine that presses it with 130 degrees of heat for seven seconds to ensure the thickness is consistent in each pie. And for pepperoni pizzas, you should expect to find exactly 60 pieces on each pie.
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