Picnic, the maker of a robot that outperforms pizzas, has raised $ 16.3 million to accelerate its growth at a time of massive restaurant job challenges.

The company will use the funds to Hire employees and expand their business as they prepare to scale. No picnic bots are currently in use, but the company has announced a handful of restaurant and supplier partnerships and plans to announce the deployment later this year.

Seattle-based Picnic saw keen interest in its during the pandemic Technology. But it has noticed even more activity lately as restaurants struggle to find workers.

“It seems particularly acute right now and it is really generating a surge in interest,” said Clayton Wood, Picnic CEO. “We fill vacancies.”

In cooperation with a single human employee, the robot can produce 100 pizzas in one hour. The idea is to save labor, produce more consistent pizzas, and waste less food, especially during a rush when employees might be tempted to compromise.

Picnic last year tested its robot in various settings to identify the best use case. These efforts continue as part of a new partnership with Ethan Stowell Restaurants, which operates about 20 restaurants in Seattle, including some that serve pizza. The partnership will bring the bot to pop-ups and other events to show what it can do with a more cook-oriented menu.

Picnic has also signed a deal with Orion Land Mark, a major pizza and pizza accessories company to offer its technology as part of Orion’s thousands of plug-and-play pizza concepts for non-traditional locations like college campuses and military bases.

Wood believes these are the most useful uses for picnicking in the ghost kitchen or at commissioners or restaurants that will be completing a lot of digital orders.

“A lot of the customers we speak to are actually setting up new or expanded operations that really need automation to work effectively,” he said. Some branch out into pizza for the first time, start take-and-bake production, or make retail products for grocery stores.

Restaurants that use picnic pay a monthly subscription based on menu and volume. The base system generally costs the same as a minimum wage employee per month, Wood said.

The Series A round was led by venture capital group Thursday Ventures with input from existing investors Creative Ventures, Flying Fish Partners, and Vulcan Capital.

“We are preparing to scale,” said Wood of the capital infusion. “We’re just seeing a huge market and global interest from brands and brands alike.”

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