Cashierless stores have been dominating the news of late; among them Amazon Go, Bingo Box, even Sainsbury & Albert Heijn.
On a smaller scale, and no less exciting, is the humble vending machine. This much older unstaffed retail model is now capable of delivering sophisticated product offers in miniature pockets of real estate on high street, transit hubs and in community spaces.
Looking back at this year’s travels, most striking is the emergence of freshly prepared food and drinks. Here is a “taste” of our favourites:
Chef in Box
Chef in Box is a based in Singapore. They cook their own high quality, additive free, Asian ready meals.
Meals are packaged, frozen for freshness and heated in minutes in state of the art hot food vending machines. These are now in over 30 spots across the island.
Locations range from lone machines to open community dining areas, like the one we visited in Tampines residential estate.
It has a clean high tech feel with easy to follow instructions and a very wide range of both food, fresh and packaged drinks.
Chennai based start up “Frshly Express” has taken a slightly different approach to delivering freshly prepared meals. Frshly partner with a number of local restaurants and based on what consumers have been ordering, have them prepare dishes 12 hours in advance. The food is prepared right before peak time and is brought to the outlet and fed into the machine.
To ensure the food is always offered fresh, they automatically disappear from the menu if over 6 hours old.
There are more than 20 Frshly Express locations in Chennai, Bengaluru, Hyderabad and Pune, in airports, railway stations, business parks and food courts. Customers can see a robotic arm select your meal insert it into the oven and then dispense it in a couple of minutes. This one we saw in Chennai airport, was extremely tasty!
Another Singaporean innovator is “i.jooz” who position themselves as the most convenient freshly squeezed orange juice supplier in Singapore. Their machines present a clear view of the oranges being fed, cut, squeezed and dispensed in front of you, showing the juice is fresh, adding engagement and retail theatre for customers.
Again, we saw a range of executions, from individual machines through to banks of machines, advertising and fake foliage, providing impact on the high street.
Sadly we didn’t get to visit Japan’s new pizza vending machine “Pizza Self” in Hiroshima, which was adapted for the Japanese market from an Italian machine and is about to be rolled out across Japan.
Enthusiastically demonstrated here, you can see it delivers cues from a wood fired pizza oven using a large digital screen, glowing dispenser shoot and even a pizza cutter for you to slice your authentically blackened Margherita.
This proved so popular there were queues of up to 40 people at any one time.