As contactless foodservice heats up due to the pandemic, smart vending machines and the companies behind them are looking to expand their offerings and locations. Here are five to keep an eye on.
1. Ramen on the run
Yo-Kai Express debuted its ramen vending machine in 2018, and the company has expanded its product line over the years to include items such as mail-order ramen. Most recently, Yo Kai tested out a mobile, self-driving vending machine that will provide customers with ramen wherever they are.
In an interview with The Spoon, Yo-Kai Founder and CEO Andy Lin said that that the first version of the new mobile unit is on track to be finished late this year or early next, and the company is currently in talks to bring the machine to two University of California campuses.
2. Custom blended smoothies
Blendid’s smoothie vending machine—which is made up of a robotic arm, blenders, a refrigeration system and dispensers that hold different juices and ingredients—offers users the ability to customize their own smoothies via mobile app.
The company partnered with Jamba late last year to open cobranded contactless kiosks in Walmart stores, and Blendid machines have also been installed on college campuses such as the University of San Francisco and Sonoma State University. The company plans to open new locations in Southern California and Georgia this year.
3. Late-night cereal run
Chowbotics, the makers of Sally the salad robot, partnered with Kellogg’s to install a cereal vending machine at the University of Wisconsin and Florida State University. Users can customize their bowls with up to 22 ingredients or enjoy pre-selected options such as the Hawaii 5-0,which includes Frosted Mini-Wheats, Bear Naked Fit Triple Berry Granola, pineapple, coconut and mango. Students are able to use their meal plans to purchase the bowls.
4.Pizza in under 5 minutes
Basil Street’s 22-square-foot pizza machine is able to cook frozen, 10-inch pies in about three minutes, and customers can select from three flavor options: four-cheese, pepperoni and a rotating pizza of the month.
The company recently partnered with vending company Prepango to install up to 200 of its “automated pizza kitchens” in U.S. airports over the next year and a half, with university and healthcare locations also in its sights.
5. Oven-fresh bread
The Le Bread Xpress vending machine made its debut at a retail shopping complex in San Francisco in 2016a time when it only served baguettes. Since then, the micro-bakery has been installed in various locations throughout the Bay Area and has expanded its offerings to include sandwiches, pizza and pastries.
The company recently teamed up with Canteen Vending Services to begin installing the machines nationwide.