Prepare for the Rise of the (Vending) Machines

Just like food trucks before them, American vending machines are in the midst of a re-evolution. New machines are becoming increasingly more upscale and feature nontraditional wares such as caviar, cupcakes, and burritos. 

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Well, shoot. Looks like you forgot your lunch on the kitchen counter again. This is entirely frustrating -- you ALWAYS do this. Now you're going to have to go hungry because your workplace is located in a space as equivalently barren as the Gobi Desert. If you're lucky you'll be able to track down a spare ketchup packet lodged deep in a desk drawer, at least to hold you over for the time being. What a crisis, what a dilemma. 

But wait! How could you have forgotten? There is rescue nearby. Located down the hall near the copy room are a pair of Prince Charmings: tall, dark, and a little on the wider side. They are the office vending machine and they are saviors for your unsavory situation. You swipe your credit card through the machine, press a few buttons, and nourishment arrives... not in the form of Doritos and a Diet Coke, but as caviar, cupcakes, and a customized burrito.

Welcome to the future of vending machines.

What's the Big Idea?

The above situation may not be so far off, according to Catherine Garcia of The Week. That's because vending machine innovation in America is a major hot topic at the moment.  Garcia cites an LA Times article about the vending industry's current modernization, with West Hollywood-based Burrito Box highlighted in particular. Burrito Box is exactly what you think it is, though perhaps more impressive in that its machines assemble, heat, and distribute customized burritos instead of simple vending pre-made fare. Other stores such as Sprinkles Cupcakes and Jamba Juice have experimented with machines that almost completely remove the human out from the food distribution process. The owner of a Beverly Hills based caviar boutique, which installed its first machine in 2012, claims in the Times article that reducing employees is vital to the extended life of a small business like hers.

Although vending is all the rage in Japan (and has been for quite some time), the United States has yet to embrace them a much more than junk food repositories. But as is the case with selling things in America, what you sell comes secondary to how you sell it. Just like food trucks before them, vending machines have entered a renaissance where they're being marketed less as a convenient way of getting food and more as a gourmet option in and of themselves (and not without novelty). Whether the hulking fluorescent boxes that sell us Twix bars during lunch break will go the way of the dodo as Burrito Boxes reign supreme remains to be seen.

Read more at The Week

Photo credit: Plume Photography / Shutterstock

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