Back in the day, vending machines were simple. For a couple bucks you could get a soda, some chips or cookies, and maybe some gum. But a wave of high-tech innovation is transforming vending machines into mini restaurants that can pump out just about any type of hot food, on-demand, 24 hours day.
Basil Street Cafe is one such company looking to lead this vending revolution with its Automated Pizza Kitchen (APK). These APKs are roughly 20 square feet and hold 150 frozen pizzas. For about $8 (depending on location), customers use a touchscreen to choose between a cheese, pepperoni or seasonal pizza. Pies are then run through the machine’s built-in oven and come out fully cooked in three minutes.
As with companies like Briggo and Cafe X and their coffee robots, Basil Street is looking to bring its APKs to high-volume areas: “Anywhere people want something hot and fast,” Basil Street Cafe CEO, Deglin Kenealy told me by phone. Kenealy believes there are 250,000 such locations around the U.S. where the APK could find a home, including airports, military bases, college campuses or even inside existing grocery or convenience stores.
Basil Street’s business model is to pay places $500 a month in rent to install the APK (Kenealy said they are also open to rev-share models). “We make money selling pizza,” Kenealy said. All other aspects of the operation is controlled by Basil Street. The company will come up with its own pizza recipes, and work with co-packers to make the pizzas and distributors to the load the machines.
This means that Basil Street is also responsible for maintaining the APKs. Kenealy said that thanks to the array of IoT sensors built into each machine, it can remotely be alerted to analyze and diagnose any issues that may arise and pre-emptively send a repair person to fix it before any APK actually breaks down.
Controlling all aspects of the process will also give Basil Street a lot more data to work with, an asset Kenealy believes could become more valuable than the pizza. The company will know what people buy, when and where they buy it, and how often. Basil Street could use this data to target new cuisine offerings or new locations. The company started with pizza because it’s easier to ship and cook, but Kenealy said the oven’s technology could be used to cook just about anything.
As of now Basil Street has raised $3.5 million in friends and family funding and is running two demo machines in the Los Angeles area. The company has 10 test units in production that will be installed sometime in late June/early July of this year. These units will be distributed around the country including LA, the Midwest and Texas.
As mentioned earlier, Basil Street is one of many high-tech vending machines coming to market. In addition to the Briggo and Cafe X, there’s Chowbotics, Fresh Bowl and Byte Foods all delivering fresh meals from a vending machine. Basil Street isn’t even alone in the pizza space as companies like PizzaMetry and Let’s Pizza have similar pizza making machines.
All of these machines coming to market mean more choices for sure, but it also means the hallways of high-traffic areas are going to start crowding out the actual traffic.