Vending Machines are Entering a New Golden Age
Updated: Jun 25
Retail Revolution | June 23, 2020
Vending machines are in the midst of a renaissance. Traditional vending machine companies have struggled in recent months. Stay-at-home orders have kept customers out of workplaces, resulting in a drop in snacking on the go. However, the future is promising for those looking to innovate.
In the months to come, as shelter-in-place orders lift but social distancing remains in place, retail solutions that can limit capacity and contact have suddenly become gold dust. The post-Covid restaurant world is going to look very different: vending machine-based dining has seldom seemed like a better idea. From the late 19th century to 1991, the chain, automat, served hot food out of glass and steel mechanical lockers. “The automat to me is probably the greatest distribution for food and fast food,” says restaurateur Stratis Morfogen, the founder of Philippe Chow.
For the past year, Morfogen has been developing an 880-square-foot automat-style dumpling restaurant, to be launched in New York’s East Village in July or August. Brooklyn Dumpling Shop will serve 24 hours a day. At no step of the ordering or purchasing process must customers come into contact with another person.
Luke Saunders, the CEO and founder of Farmer’s Fridge, believes the potential for a new era of vending machine-driven dining within the US has only grown over time. “A lot of the current situation has magnified trends that were already in motion.” Technology costs have fallen, while the margins for most restaurants have grown tighter, he said. At the same time, customers are more comfortable than ever before with ordering through their devices.
Customers want the experience of being served by a human being, but provided round the clock and available at-will. A smart machine simulates that experience so that someone feels like they aren’t being avoided, that whatever they said matters.