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Pizza Vending Machines Rule Actually

Aww, we’re doing “automation is going to ruin food culture” discourse again

A pepperoni pizza pie on a white board being held by two hands
THE HORROR
Photo by Johannes Neudecker/picture alliance via Getty Images

Every year or so, the world loves to spend a day or two panicking about overreaches in vending machine technology. Most of us associate vending machines with packaged snacks and drinks, but then there are the stories about these horrible boxes whirring out oysters, crabs, burritos and freshly-sauced Belgian frites. The reaction is generally gawking at the disgusting miracle. We can make fresh, hot food come out of a box, and it’s horrible.

Most recently, that cycle of rage has circled around a pizza vending machine in Rome, created by Massimo Bucolo, whom the New York Times describes as “a medical device salesman turned pizza entrepreneur.” The machine, named Mr. Go, makes fresh pizza from scratch — the machine mixes flour and water, presses it into a disc and coats it with sauce and cheese and some limited toppings of the customer’s choice — in three minutes. And its presence has prompted fevered culture reports from the Times, CNN, Food & Wine, and more about what it all means and what uncultured rubes could even consider this pizza?

Of course, Bucolo is not even trying to sell the vending machine as a replacement for all pizza restaurants everywhere. He basically says it’s for drunk people to grab a hot bite when all the regular pizzerias are closed, a step up from a frozen grocery-store pie you’d heat up yourself at home. “We have neither the pretense nor the arrogance to consider our product equal to or better than a pizza made in a pizzeria,” he told El Periodico. “Our mission is to offer a valid alternative within the world of food.”

It’s almost adorable, then, to watch news outlets quote locals and pizzeria owners condemn the machine, as if it’s actually a threat to anyone. Just as the oyster vending machine did not kill the dollar oyster happy hour, or vending machines in general have not killed restaurants, no one is going to the pizza vending machine under the impression this is the beginning of the end for pizzaiolos everywhere. We have the data and it’s just not!

Some of the anxiety, however, is understandable. All machine labor carries a specter of “replacing jobs,” and at a time when unemployment is high but workers are also refusing to take low-paying, exploitative jobs, perhaps some are worried holding out for better pay will mean Domino’s just gets a robot instead.

But the other prong to any of these panics is that vending machine pizza or burritos or cupcakes are in bad taste. Which is just exhausting and not the point. Of course it’s not the world’s best pizza, or traditional, or authentic, or any of those dog-whistley buzzwords that people use to make themselves feel morally superior in their choices. Yes, fast, mass produced is often bad for plenty of reasons, but flavor is not one of them, and a vending machine is hardly McDonald’s supply chain. Anyway, this machine sounds awesome. Put one in my house, please.

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