Taste Test: Australia's First Pizza Vending Machine

The Pizza Gio is a new takeaway concept that delivers piping-hot pizzas straight from a vending machine to the customer's mouth. It offers a choice of two "authentic" Italian artisan pizzas that are cooked inside the machine and dispensed in under three minutes. Yesterday, we checked out the debut model at Sydney's Chatswood Westfield shopping centre. Here's how it tasted.

For whatever reason, Australia has never really got behind the whole vending machine craze. While other counties' vending machines spit out everything from smartphones to live bait, we've tended to stick to boring stuff like coffee, soft drinks and lollies.

Pompei's Pizzeria is looking to change all this. Following two years of development, the Bondi-based restaurant rolled out Australia's first pizza vending machine earlier this week. Needless to say, Lifehacker was among the first punters in line.

So how does it work? Customers select between two 11-inch pre-prepared pizzas on the Gio's touch screen menu — margherita or hot salami. They then pay via cash or credit card and wait while the pizza is cooked.

The machine's inbuilt oven hits temperatures of 300 degrees Celcius, which is just shy of optimum pizza-baking levels. However, the pizzas are actually pre-cooked halfway through in Pompei's state-of-the-at ovens prior to entering the machine. After exposing the pizza to around three minutes of extreme heat, it's sliced and dispensed through a dinky vending slot, ready to eat.

Going through the selection process couldn't be simpler, although it's important to know what you want from the beginning; once you've swiped your credit card, the "cancel" button stops working which means you're stuck with whichever pizza you originally clicked on.

The entire process seemed to take slightly longer than the advertised three minutes, although the irresistible novelty factor more than made up for it. We suspect you could be in for a lengthy wait if there's lots of customers in front of you though — unlike a real pizzeria, the Gio can only cook and dispense one pizza at a time. (Fortunately, the machine can hold 84 pizzas at once, so there's little chance of missing out.)

After a handy countdown on the touch screen menu, the customer is presented with a freshly baked pizza as demonstrated in the clip below:

As you can see, the finished product comes served on a foil tray rather than a traditional pizza box. This makes it a bit of a pain in the bum to transport. We're not sure how the Gio could solve this problem — a separate box dispenser, perhaps? — but as it stands, you're pretty much forced to chow down at the point of purchase. Tch, eh?

In terms of taste, the pizza was a lot better than we were expecting. The dough was exceptionally crisp with a hot, doughy centre: it reminded me of a wood-fired pizza restaurant I used to frequent in Dubrovnick, which is pretty impressive for something shat out of a vending machine. The toppings were scant, although this was by design (I ordered the traditional margherita version.)

On the downside, the sauce was a little on the bland side which made me wish I'd plumped for hot salami instead. Also, whatever slicing mechanism the machine uses needs a complete overhaul — it's currently useless. My pizza's base had barely any cuts in it, which forced me to tear hunks off with my hands. This made for a needlessly messy meal.

So is there a future for automated pizzerias in Australia? We remain undecided. Despite arriving at Chatswood Westfield shopping centre just after noon, demand seemed pretty light for the Gio. The machine was attracting high levels of interest from passersby, but most contented themselves with taking a photo for their Instagram or Facebook feed. In fact, I was the only paying customer.

Part of this probably has to do with the asking price — $12 is quite a lot for a single-serve pizza, especially when it's coming out of a vending machine, sight unseen. By contrast, Pizza Hut was selling $4.95 pizzas a few metres away, so why take a gamble? Plus, being in the middle of Westfield's sprawling food court probably isn't doing it any favours. We imagine the Gio would have a lot more success outside pubs or train stations.

If given the opportunity, I'll probably give the Gio vending machine another go, if only to try the hot salami variety. But next time I'm bringing my own pizza slicer.

Score: 7/10


Comments

    This is cool but not Australia's first pizza vending machine, i remember using one here in Adelaide a few years ago, i think it was a machine they were trialling.

    There is a pizza vending machine that makes the pizza from scratch and not just reheating a frozen one.

      Yeah, there was a pizza vending machine at the UniSA in Magill years ago..

    This is pretty cool, and would do well in city nightspots. But $12 for a vending machine pizza is ridiculous.

      When you're plastered at 3am, nothing will stop you from obtaining pizza. NOTHING.

      (I speak from experience. Fortunate we had a frozen pizza in the freezer!)

    When I pay $20 for a full size pizza, a garlic mini pizza and a drink down the road where they make the actual pizza base from scratch...I will stick with them ;)

    Thank you for doing this, so I won't have to walk past this machine and wonder.

    On a slightly different note, I had frozen pizza for dinner last night, which I don't think I've eaten for at least 15 years. The cooking instructions stated to place the pizza directly on the wire shelves in the oven, and it produced a very crispy-based pizza. I was pleasantly surprised.

    Cool, a solution to a problem that didn't exist, and for only $12.00

      Put these in Uni's and TAFEs across the country and they will be a hit (and I'm thinking more about the late-at-night study thing more than during the day).

        They did something like that in Adelaide about 7 years back and I never saw a single person order from them, they didn't last long before being taken away

    I work near Chatswood, might go check it out. Just as a novelty thing though..

    I saw them stocking this last week, what looked like coles frozen pizzas that had come straight from a china back alley. and that comes straight out of a large brown box by the weirdest guy. i think the half eaten pizza from pizza hut "around the cnr" might have been safer...stupid machine placement ever! but of course if this was in manly corso and it was 2am then killer I'm in! haha NOT.

    Last edited 14/08/14 4:11 pm

    Possibly the worst place to set up a pizza reheating machine.

    A good review of a product that hasn't quite found its market. Coming soon: 3D printed pizzas. Printzas! (Note to self: trademark the name 'Printza'.)

    You'll have to do a taste test of the $4.95 pizza hut pizza and compare properly.

    I think you mean "countries" instead of "counties"

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