As consumers seek out convenience and accessibility, the vending machine market is predicted to surpass $30 billion in revenue by 2024, according to Global Market Insights.
Some companies are going outside the typical vending machine box, offering items such as pizza, salad, and even barbeque dishes. Here are a few examples.
Basil Street offers hot, ready-to-eat pizza out of a vending machine. The company’s Automated Pizza Kitchens (APK) are robotic vending machines, consisting of a patent-pending three element non-microwave speed oven and a touchscreen terminal. Pizzas are made with fresh ingredients and then flash frozen to preserve the flavor and freshness. Cook time is about three minutes for a 10-in. Italian style pizza, offered with three choices of toppings.
“Our proprietary technology allows us to cook each type of pizza as it should be cooked,” said CEO Deglin Kenealy. “Our oven technology changes the cooking profile used for each pizza based on the type of pizza, starting temperature of the oven, the altitude of the APK, and other factors.”
Basil Street closed a $10 million priced round of funding in March, which initially was being used to roll out the first machines nationally in April, reported Vending Times (April 15). Due to COVID-19, this has been pushed back by about a month, according to CEO Deglin Kenealy.
However, Kenealy noted that the pandemic ended up accelerating demand for the machines across the U.S. “Because our process minimizes touchpoints, decision-makers within these locations have identified our APK as a wonderful option,” he said. “People are beginning to realize that a high-volume, retail food solution like our APK can feed a large number of people with significantly less risk of food- or human-borne illness.”
Initial deployments of the pizza units are planned for military bases, factories, corporate facilities, and hospitals in California, Las Vegas, and Texas. The company is already working on second-generation units that will allow for more pizza choices, as well as the option to order remotely and pickup, Kenealy said.
For healthy and convenient options, Farmer’s Fridge vending machines dispense fresh salads. Farmer’s Fridge’s automated smart Fridges dispense jars full of salads packed with quality ingredients, as well as other healthy meals and snacks. The company has more than 400 machines in office buildings, hospitals, and food courts in six U.S. states, reported The Wall Street Journal.
On average, Farmer’s Fridge estimates that its salads are made, delivered, and sold within 36 hours, and it won’t sell a salad after 48 hours. The vending machines are connected to the internet, allowing the company to monitor food safety remotely.
Temperatures are recorded every five minutes to ensure food is kept at safe levels, while the machine tracks how long each item has been inside and will not dispense food past the sell-by date. Customers can also get alerted via the app whether their favorite items are available in nearby machines.
Farmer’s Fridge has been on the frontlines of the pandemic at nearly 100 hospitals along the mid-Atlantic corridor and Midwest, reported Bloomberg (April 14). Healthcare workers have access to quick restaurant grade-fare, including smoked cheddar Cobb salads, pesto pasta bowls with chopped spinach and mozzarella pearls, and chipotle turkey sandwiches.
At healthcare facilities, baskets and tickets are up about 14%, while off-hours transactions-from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m.-are up as much as 300%. The dip in consumption that typically happened during weekends has also disappeared. Sales of its snacks are level, while sales of bowls increased.
In Kansas City, KS, Jones Bar-B-Q is offering a barbecue vending machine, reported Kansas City Business Journal (April 15).
The temperature-controlled vending machine is accessible 24/7 and offers various favorites like signature sides, chicken wings, and sandwiches-including beef, turkey, and burnt ends. It’s located outside the restaurant and stocked daily, giving customers expanded access while social distancing.
Customers will also soon be able to buy bottles of their famous sauce from the vending machine, reported KCUR 89.3 (April 15). “I said, ‘You know, if you can get chips out of a vending machine, let me see if I can get some barbecue,'” said co-owner Deborah Jones. Jones noted it felt like a long shot when they first had the idea, but it’s been significantly more popular than expected .