In this time of COVID, vending machines are fast becoming a great option for contactless meals. Well, mostly contactless. While the machines are using advanced robotics to make high-end food, many still require users to touch the same screen to place their order — a no-no in today’s hyper hygienic world.
When I talked with Chowbotics for The Great Vending Reinvention: The Spoon’s Smart Vending Machine Market Report earlier this year, the company knew that this limitation was an issue and was fast-tracking a solution, which is finally here.
Yesterday, Chowbotics announced some new features for its fresh food robot, Sally. Included in the updates are contactless ordering, new menu items and dynamic video advertising, according to an email sent to The Spoon.
Sally’s new contactless ordering feature lets consumers order their meals ahead of time through a new, proprietary app. Customers place their order through the app with their nearest Sally. Upon arrival at the machine, a special QR code generate by the app is scanned and the meal is made and dispensed. (The press release did not mention any new contactless payment features.)
Chowbotics also continues to expand Sally’s menu beyond salads with new options. The company today also announced that has added new chef-designed meal items including Thai noodle salad, Poke, and even a smoked brisket bowl.
Finally, Chowbotics also added new video screen to its robot, which means that operators can insert dynamic ads depending on what they want to promote. For example, the screen could display breakfast bowls in the morning and a BBQ bowl in the evening.
Since the pandemic has forced the closure of buffet-style food options like salad bars, Chowbotics and other vending companies have reporting an uptick in interest from grocery retailers. With expanded menu options, the ability to make meals around the clock and custom upsell and marketing messages throughout the day, retailers may not want to go back to staid salad bars.
UPDATE: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that the video advertising would be on the touchscreen.