Minimizing human to human exposure has become a key feature for food service companies. While no contact delivery and online ordering services have been thriving, the humble vending machine is having its own modern renaissance. The automated food vendors have traditionally been limited to snacks like soda, candy, and chips (with Smartfood popcorn as the extent of better-for-you options). But as technology evolves, the capabilities of vending machines have expanded.
Farmer’s Fridge is leading the charge in the fresh food vending machine category. The Chicago based business operates over 400 units across the East Coast, selling kitchen prepared meals in refrigerated machines. The infrastructure of its fleet relies on cloud technology for both restocking and user experience. An app communicates with customers, sending promotions and providing information about locations, menus and more. The fresh meal offerings include breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snack options. The hearty meals are delivered completely contactless and help feed hungry healthcare workers.
NÜTY (short for nutritious and tasty) is India’s first fresh meal kiosk. The menu offers over 30 varieties of heat-and-eat homestyle Indian foods. The food is cooked in a kitchen, then placed in a chiller for customers to purchase. Payments are processed through the WhatsApp chat feature, which customers can use to locate chillers and make purchases. With over 200 locations in India, both the temperatures and inventory of the chillers are monitored remotely. NÜTY has also set its sights on China, with intent to use WeChat as the delivery method.
Bite partners with existing fast casual and quick service restaurants to provide self ordering systems for customers. The touchscreen kiosks are equipped with facial recognition technology to remember the orders of repeat guests, and can relieve labor in restaurants – putting a stop to long lines and encouraging more orders. With food self-service kiosks making up 16 percent of the percentage participation in relation to the total market, we are sure to see more Bite kiosks popping up in our favorite quick service restaurants.
The vending machine food experience is not confined to refrigerated options. Basil Street Pizza is a fully automated pizza kitchen inside a vending machine. Customers can use the self service touch screen to purchase hot, fresh, made to order pizza. Toppings are selected from a digital display, and a 10 inch pizza is cooked in under 3 minutes. This is an attractive option for any looking for a hot meal with truly contactless delivery, at any time of day or night. The company recently raised $10 million in funding, so these machines will soon roll out in high traffic areas like airports and hospitals nationwide.
Consumers are increasingly in search of quick, convenient and contact-free food options. While food delivery services like Uber Eats and GrubHub have exploded in popularity, automated systems are proving to be successful options for satisfying food on-the-go.