Farmer’s Fridge vending machines have always had a lot of things people were looking for: 24 hour access, a creative menu, and fresh salads served in cute jars. But the one thing Farmer’s Fridge didn’t offer was contactless ordering and payment, features made more important by the COVID-19 pandemic. Customers still needed to touch the machine to place there order and make a payment.
Until recently, that is. I spoke with Farmer’s Fridge CTO, Candice Savino, this week, who told me that the company rolled out contactless reserve and pay functionality to its machines at the end of August.
Like so many other players in the vending machine space, the addition of contactless ordering was on Farmer’s Fridge’s roadmap but was bumped to the head of the feature queue when the pandemic hit. Savino’s team worked quickly, creating an early prototype in May and rolling out the finished product in August to 160 of its 200 machines that are still active (prior to the pandemic, Farmer’s Fridge had 700 machines active in places like office buildings and convention centers).
Farmer’s Fridge contactless ordering works through the company’s mobile app. In the app, the user selects the machine it wants to order from, places the order and pays. That machine then holds the food until the person arrives and punches in a special code generated by the Farmer’s Fridge app.
Savino said the solution allows the company to actually have more accurate inventory management across its entire fleet of machines because it moves stocking data from the edge to a centralized location in the cloud. There are also safeguards in place to prevent remote dispensing, say if you accidentally went to one machine but had ordered from a different machine across town. (If that is the case, the user cancels and re-orders.)
Savino said that adoption of the new ordering system has been good, with 20 percent of Farmer’s Fridge orders going through the mobile app and growing week over week.
With the pandemic still raging, it’s a safe bet that all vending services will adopt contactless ordering and payment going forward. Chowbotics, which makes Sally the robot salad maker, added contactless ordering at the end of last month, and Blendid, which makes a robot smoothie kiosk, has always featured contactless ordering and payment.
Farmer’s Fridge is definitely in touch with the times, especially when it comes to removing touch from its retail experience.