Technology & Equipment

Automated Retail Technologies expands its Just Baked kiosk footprint

The hot food technology supplier has teamed up with Sodexo to deploy thousands of Just Baked Smart Bistro kiosks at Sodexo sites across the U.S.
Just Baked kiosks
Corporate dining will be especially active in the first phase of the roll out. | Photo courtesy of Automated Retail Technologies.

Automated Retail Technologies (ART) is expanding its kiosk footprint, thanks to a partnership with foodservice giant Sodexo. The two have teamed up to deploy thousands of hot food vending machines at Sodexo’s sites across the U.S. Dubbed Just Baked Smart Bistro kiosks, the kiosks can serve giant cinnamon rolls, White Castle Cheeseburger Sliders, bao buns, breakfast sandwiches and more. The kiosks began rolling out to Sodexo sites in March and can be found in a variety of industries, with a focus on healthcare, corporate services and campus dining. Shawn Marquardt, vice president of national accounts for ART, said that workplace dining will be particularly active in the first wave of deployments. The team began with sites that have thoroughly tested the Just Baked machines, he said.

While Sodexo would not disclose the exact number of Just Baked kiosks currently deployed, the company did say it plans on launching several hundred kiosks over the next year. 

"We're continuously seeking partnerships with innovative companies, and our collaboration with ART is particularly exciting in that regard. Adding to our roster of tech-driven ventures, we're thrilled to enhance convenience by deploying several hundred kiosks over the next year. With this partnership, we're moving beyond traditional vending machines, offering on-demand access to hot, satisfying food options," said Husein Kitabwalla, CEO of food transformation at Sodexo. 

The partnership is rooted in a common goal, to expand the presence of autonomous options in foodservice operations, said Marquardt.

“ART and Sodexo share the vision for autonomous solutions like Just Baked becoming reliable options and widely available as an extension of traditional dining programs,” he said. “The goal for ART is to support Sodexo in their initiative to utilize technology to better serve their clients at all hours. Whether on campus, in a hospital, or at the workplace, Sodexo can provide delicious hot meals 24 hours per day.”

Sodexo, meanwhile, is excited to invest in convenience, according to a press release.

"Our dedication to innovation in convenience, dining, and the broader evolution of food hinges entirely on technological advancements,” said Kitabwalla, in the statement. "We're excited to collaborate with ART and leverage their Just Baked technology, further expanding our network of partners utilizing AI for food production and bringing our clients and consumers foods that transcend conventional norms."

But what excites Sodexo about the partnership is more than just the idea of convenience, said Kitabwalla. Sodexo is also excited about the data gathering tools provided. 

"What really grabs attention in this partnership goes beyond just its tech—although that's the cornerstone. The fact that it's contactless and unmanned is fascinating but what really makes it stand out is the data that it’ll yield, notably real-time insights into consumer purchasing behavior," said Kitabwalla. "Through this, we anticipate gaining an intricate understanding of consumer preferences across various times, locations, and differing lines of business.”

The partnership will also help ART expand its foodservice footprint. According to Marquardt, Just Baked’s install base grew by over 300% in 2023 and the new collaboration with Sodexo will only help to accelerate that number.

This is not the first time ART has teamed up with a foodservice player in an effort to expand Just Baked’s presence in on-site foodservice. In 2022, the company partnered with Wow Bao to expand the Asian bao chain’s footprint to nontraditional locations.

But this is the company’s first partnership with a major foodservice provider, which could have an significant impact on the company’s on-site footprint.

The biggest challenge that Just Baked solves for is labor, said Marquardt. The technology also allows for expansion of offerings outside of traditional hours.

“Just Baked creates significant labor efficiencies, particularly for off hours demand. End users and facility managers desire great service, variety, and hours of access to keep their guests and employees fueled,” he said. “This can be a challenge to balance demand and profitability with traditional foodservice, thus the need for autonomous solutions like Just Baked.”

Serving the different segments in on-site foodservice can present differing challenges; however, the team at ART has effectively worked through those challenges. Marquardt said the main difference between the segments is the hours of use, which impacts product mix.

“Our operator dashboard analyzes the demand at each particular location, and helps curate the perfect menu for each site,” he said.

Another challenge the team is working on solving is ensuring consumers are able to use their preferred method of payment. Just Baked has been actively working on this problem and currently accepts a wide variety of payment methods, including student meal plans and employee badges.

When it comes to marketing, Just Baked is very hands on. The company provides an array of materials to assist in grand openings and marketing of the concept. Some materials include email templates, window clings, floor decals and banners.

So far, Marquardt says the partnership has been successful.

“Sodexo has been extremely impressive – the segments and organizations have been diligent as they prepare for their respective scaled rollouts, and each of the teams are packed with talented individuals.”

Moving forward, Marquardt said the main goal is to enhance their offerings to serve every Sodexo segment and their end consumers. The team plans to continue to innovate its technology and menus.

Editor's Note: This story has been updated to include quotes from Sodexo



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