By Heather Goewey
Vending machines are becoming so innovative, attractive—and in all honesty, fun—you may not recognize them as vending machines.
Since their inception, vending machines have provided a convenient, turnkey way to eat and drink on the run—especially in places where there are very few alternatives, if any.
Today, vending machines still solve basic needs, but in addition to being located in food and drink deserts, you’re also likely to find these machines alongside table service in a popular restaurant.
For foodservice operators, vending machines are a low-involvement, common-sense solution to labor issues and around-the-clock sales. For consumers, vending machines are a quick, easy and entertaining way to get instant gratification without the need for human interaction.
From the thrill of creating your own soft serve ice cream concoction, to cuing up a hot, fresh pizza, today’s trending vending machines are a feast for the senses and provide more than nourishment. They offer an experience.
Farm fresh salads, bacon, cupcakes and bottles of champagne are “on the menu” at some of the most unique and innovative vending machines in food.
Here’s a rundown of some of the coolest ones around:
1. On-demand soft serve ice cream at Moxy Hotel, NY
Claiming to be America’s first soft-serve vending machine, the “Love Machine” at Bar Moxy in Moxy Times Square (a subsidiary of Marriott Hotels) lets guests treat themselves to trendy flavors like Mike’s Hot Honey vanilla, dairy-free dark chocolate or twist soft serve ice cream with toppings like honeycomb and Greek yogurt chips for $3-$7 a treat. Read more.
2. Pizza ATM at Xavier University, OH
Debuting on the Xavier University campus in 2016, the Pizza ATM was the first of its kind in the U.S. It cooks up 12-inch pizzas at 475 degrees in about three minutes, making it a major hit with students. The pizzas were made and stocked by Xavier’s dining staff and sold for $9 to $10 each. Read more.
3. Beer can vending at Pickled Monk gastropub, CA
Pickled Monk, a trendy gastropub in Fullerton, California, is all about
4. Moёt champagne vending machine at The Crack Shack, CA
Champagne probably isn’t the first thing that comes to mind when you think of fried chicken, but that’s exactly what’s available at Richard Blais’ popular The Crack
5. Bacon vending for a cause at Ohio State
To raise money for Ohio State’s meat science program, a vending machine that sold cooked bacon strips and bacon bits for a buck
6. Farmer’s Fridge chef-curated meals and snacks
The automated smart Fridge from Farmer’s Fridge is packed with jars of handmade meals and snacks using local partners and seasonal ingredients. Their motto is to put wholesome food where you used to turn for processed pick-me-ups. See our What’s New In Food™ vlog on Farmer’s Fridge here.
7. Sprinkles cupcake ATM
Claiming to be the world’s first cupcake ATM, the Sprinkles cupcake vending machine offers freshly baked and decorated cupcakes in a cute craft box. Available in a handful of U.S. cities, the Sprinkles ATM lets you choose your cupcake flavor and watch behind the scenes as your cupcake goes through the machine. Watch how it works.
8. Le Bread Xpress warm, fresh baguette vending machine
Some say techies in San Francisco can retire. The Le Bread Xpress vending machine is the only piece of innovation anyone ever really needed. This machine sells hot, bakery fresh baguettes in tens of seconds. Invented by a French baker, Le Bread Xpress is also launching a 24/7 compact hot pizza and croissant machine. Learn more.
9. School vending for breakfast
Middleton High School in upstate New York boosted breakfast sales by 50% when it introduced four new vending machines that dispense fully reimbursable breakfasts. The machines are filled with specially designed menu choices, including a yogurt parfait and muffin prepared by the foodservice staff. Learn more.
10. From hamburgers, to underwear, to live puppies…you’ll find it in Japanese vending machines
With more than 3.8 million vending machines, Japan is known for having some of the most interesting vending selections in the world. Most of the machines dispense soft drinks, according to Coca-Cola, but the rest
About the author
Heather Goewey is a Partner and Director of Marketing Communications at Esrock Partners, a foodservice marketing agency located near Chicago, Illinois.