New technology company puts spin on fresh food vending

Pantry machines help non-commercial operators offer more than the traditional chips and soda.

SAN FRANCISCO, Calif.—Food vending machines are nothing new, but in most cases the stuff that’s available in them consists of chips, candy bars, and the occasional pre-packaged, indestructible burrito. But what if there were a way to ensure that there were healthier options available with fresh ingredients? That’s what Pantry‘s smart refrigerators were built for.

Backed by hardware incubator and seed investor Lemnos Labs, Pantry provides a refrigerator that organizations like universities, hospitals, and gyms can stock with fresh foods to be purchased at any time.

The fridge has a modified Android tablet with credit card reader attached to it, enabling customers to instantly swipe and pay for any items taken out of the fridge. They don’t even have to enter in what they took — using RFID technology, Pantry’s fridge detects what was taken out and automatically charges the card that was swiped.

In places like hospitals, which are open 24 hours but only have a cafeteria open for about a third of that time, Pantry offers up a fresh alternative to pre-packaged and less healthy foods currently available in most vending machines.

Since it knows when different food items were placed into the fridge, it can ensure the freshness of the goods sold. It also tracks inventory to let people know when items need to be restocked or replaced.

More From FoodService Director

Managing Your Business
wurster west may 2016

At a nearly 150-year-old university, every stone column and classroom has treasured stories to tell. But with that history come the logistical challenges of operating in outdated spaces—especially for foodservice. Such is the case at University of California at Berkeley, where longtime cafe Ramona’s in Wurster Hall closed in March to make way for an updated, as-yet unnamed concept.

With little more than a steam table and coolers, Ramona’s was limited by its lack of ventilation. And, as a former classroom space, it never was intended to function for foodservice, says Jennifer Wolch...

Ideas and Innovation
leftovers containers

We use our Menu Forward idea to empower staff to develop menu items and keep leftovers in check. Product left at the end of service may be claimed by any station to become part of a new item within six weeks. I’m happy to see my star team fighting for their ideas and products; the benefit to food cost is spot-on, and my freezer has no mystery items lurking in the corner.

Ideas and Innovation
food allergy

When potential students come to campus, we match them with a student from our allergy support group for a tour of our dining facilities. The ambassador helps the potential student to understand how they navigated campus with their food allergy. This showcases what we do for allergies on campus, and is a highly successful way to make the students feel good about dining.

Menu Development
muse school produce

Kayla Webb, executive chef at Muse School, has transitioned the private K-12 day school in Calabasas, Calif., to an entirely vegan menu over a three-year period. Webb talks about her menuing, and how the school’s kitchen earned the title of “greenest restaurant in the world” from the Green Restaurant Association.

Q: How did you help parents get used to the idea of an all plant-based diet?

A: The first year, we didn’t announce it. We were just serving one plant-based meal a week, so it wasn’t that drastic. We do monthly Muse Talks where we invite different speakers to our school to...

FSD Resources