The most facile way to describe Fresco Fridge is to say that they are like the Italian version of Byte Technology. That’s not entirely fair to Fresco Fridge, which has built up its own business halfway round the world and this month entered the U.S. with a new Manhattan location, but the comparison is kinda the quickest and easiest way to set the stage.
Fresco Fridge makes a smart refrigerator platform for offices and other high-traffic buildings. It’s a vending machine that uses RFID tags on the items inside so someone can open the fridge with their smartphone, grab what they want, then get automatically charged for it.
See? It sounds a lot like what Byte has been doing in the Bay Area.
Unlike Byte, which started out in the food biz but has since moved on to become more of an open platform, Fresco has never stocked the fridges with its own food. Instead, Fresco has since day one been a vehicle for selling some other vendor’s food.
One of the alluring aspects of a smart fridge like Fresco’s is that it allows offices to provide fresh food for its employees without having to take on the expense of catering meals. Companies can subsidize food in the fridge as little or as much as they want to give their workers more eating options on premises.
Fresco provides its fridges for free to a location and makes its money by charging a monthly fee and collecting a rev share with the food vendor. So if Sandwich Shop X stocks the fridge with food, Sandwich Shop X pays the fee and splits the sales. Vendors also get access to inventory management software, marketing opportunities (special offer notifications) and sales data and analytics as part of the package.
Fresco Fridge launched in September of 2018 and has raised €2 million in funding from a mix of European angel and venture investors. So far the company has 100 fridges in the field in Europe and a new one just recently installed in Manhattan. Fresco has also announced a partnership Proper Foods to sell that company’s assortment of healthy snacks and dishes. The company also has a partnership with an undisclosed commercial real estate company that has buildings across the U.S. and Europe.
Despite any similarities to its competitors, the potential market for Fresco and other smart vending services is pretty massive when you consider all of the office buildings, residential buildings, hospitals, etc. that could offer more food options on-site. As Fresco continues to expand throughout the U.S. next year, a lot more people could be saying “Ciao!” to the smart fridge.