Tucked between South University Avenue’s Starbucks and Pancheros Mexican Grill now stands a 60-square-foot pizza vending machine, available for order at all hours of the day.
The PizzaForno “24/7 automated pizzeria” offers eight menu items available in both hot and cold varieties, costing anywhere from $10 to $13. Once loaded, the machine requires no human staffers and prepares hot pizzas for its customers in under three minutes. It also offers frozen pizzas for customers to cook at home.
Headquartered in Toronto, PizzaForno made its American debut in Jackson, Mich. early last year as the nation’s first-ever pizza vending machine. Business partners Tim Ekpo and Adam Page own the Jackson unit, as well as four other units across the state of Michigan. The South University location is their newest installation.
Ekpo told The Michigan Daily he and Page wanted to provide a solution for University students who have difficulties finding food to eat late at night.
“We wanted to give (students) a food option that we didn’t have when we were in college,” Ekpo said. “(Students) need to have food options that are available 24 hours a day … (PizzaForno) is a technically advanced way of delivering and procuring food for our student population on campus.”
Engineering freshman Zawad Munshi, who ordered a vegetarian pizza for $11, said he was satisfied with the pizza as a food option in a pinch.
“It was decent,” Munshi said. “Pretty much like (reheated) frozen pizza, fine for a quick meal. Definitely a lot of food for the price and the time it took to get, but it tasted exactly how I expected.”
Munshi praised the idea of 24/7, on-demand pizza but said he wants to see more innovation and creativity from the product.
“Since it’s a comfort food, it can cover a meal for multiple people and for people living in more remote places, this could be very valuable,” Munshi said. “I’d like to see more ambitious (cooking) methods and more choice (in toppings). Especially in Ann Arbor, there are a large amount of options for pizza and I’d like to see more (toppings) that aren’t as easily accessible.”
LSA sophomores Siler Mericle and Liam Snell tried three 12-inch varieties from the machine: a Hawaiian pizza, a limited-time “festive” pizza and a pickle pizza.
Snell said that for the most part, he enjoyed all the pizzas he tried.
“I think the pizza is pretty good for what it is,” Snell said. “I think it’s a little expensive, the dough’s a bit limp on most of them, but I think the toppings really make up for it.”
Mericle said though the taste left something to be desired, he thinks the machine will become a hit among U-M students.
“The pizza quality (is) not great,” Mericle said. “But the fact that it’s open 24/7 and it’s in such a central part of where people are, especially later in the evening, (so) I think it’s going to become a solid staple.”
Page said that he and Ekpo look forward to the possibility of expanding PizzaForno and opening new locations in Ann Arbor, across the state of Michigan and throughout the Midwest.
“We do have plans to scale this all throughout Michigan…,” Page said. “Right now, it’s important that we keep it within arm’s reach. So our headquarters right now are in Jackson. We’re actually going to relocate our headquarters to Ann Arbor, which is very exciting as well, but then (we’ll) really branch out across the state from there.”
Daily Staff Reporter Irena Li can be reached at email@example.com.