Vending machines just keep on getting better, don't they? What once may have served as a mere static repository of confectionary and cold drinks has moved with the times. You can now purchase all kinds of stuff from vending machines – everything from expensive electronics to cupcakes and caviar – so why not French fries too?
That's the thinking behind this effort from a team of students and entrepreneurs at Wageningen University in the Netherlands. They've created a fully automatic vending machine that serves up a hot cup of freshly cooked French fries for when you need them most (or perhaps just when you think you do).
While this isn't the first time that vending machines have been used to serve hot chips – vending operators have been trying to make the format work for decades – its creators believe their machine will succeed where others have failed.
"Because it's very complex," one of the project's backers, Bastiaan Roest, told NOS, the Dutch broadcast foundation (text translated). "We have tried to create the perfect machine that meets all requirements: it must serve good fries, it shouldn't smell, and it must be safe."
Although the students have only developed a prototype so far, it certainly looks the goods. Unlike similar machines in the past that have given off a bit of an old-school, clunky vibe, the students' vending machine sports an extremely contemporary look, with customers making their selection off a huge touchscreen.
The chips are freshly cooked from frozen when you order. They're refrigerated at –18 degrees Celsius and are deep-fried at 180 degrees Celsius. You simply insert your Euro, choose your sauce (from a selection of mayonnaise, ketchup, and hot sauce), watch the progress bar as your fries are cooked, and after 2 minutes, voila.
It's too early to say whether the machine will be a success. Apart from stocking considerations, vending machines like this that feature cooking mechanisms also need to be cleaned fairly regularly (unlike, for example, candy bar machines) which brings with it maintenance costs that can cut into the savings made by automation.
Not that that deters Roest and his team, who plan to take their concept and run with it. "From home and abroad, [people have] already shown interest in the fries machine," he says.