$3 million for not-very-matic pizza

Let’s make our own low-cost, healthy pizza, San Jose Unified officials thought in 2003. We’ll buy a $720,000 Pizzamatic, spend $2.2 million to build space for it in the central kitchen and then call Domino’s for pizza. It turns out that $3 million doesn’t buy a lot of  pizza, reports ABC News.

It’s called the Pizzamatic — an automated, industrial, all-in-one, pizza-making workhorse.

“It has a dough stamper, followed by a sauce machine,” said student nutrition consultant John Sixt.

It has a mammoth stainless-steel production line, like those the big pizza companies use. No other school district in the country has one.

It can produce up to 1,000 pizzas an hour. In the last two years, the Pizzamatic has produced 2,000 pizzas. Total.

“Sounds like the Pizzamatic isn’t very matic,” said parent Lisa Stapleton.

The pizza business is a lot harder than district officials had anticipated. In 2007,  San Jose Unified hired a consultant to get the machine to work. Sort of.

Sixt realized the Pizzamatic needed a full-time technician to keep it running and to keep all those electric eyes lined up. He also needed a crew to clean the machine each day. So he abandoned most of the Pizzamatic — all those gadgets — except for the oven and a couple conveyor belts.

Pizza production is now down to just one day a week. Kitchen workers assemble the pizzas by hand, starting with frozen crusts. The Pizzamatic sits polished and empty. It’s too complicated and temperamental for the staff to manage. They wait at the end of the assembly line to feed pizzas into the oven, one by one.

. . . The district also never figured out how to get the pizzas to schools all over the city before they got cold. They didn’t have enough trucks and drivers.

Over the past five years, San Jose Unified has spent $1.4 million to order out for pizza;  the central kitchen — using staff and the not-very-matic Pizzamatic — produces 100 pizzas each Friday for elementary school pizza parties.

However, Superintendent Don Iglesias dreams of  the day when San Jose Unified  will make a profit as the pizza supplier for all 33 school districts in the county.  Perhaps flying pigs can deliver the pies.

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