Yo-Kai Express, which makes hot ramen vending machines, opened up its first airport location last week at the San Francisco International Airport (SFO).
The SFO Twitter account posted a picture of the machine yesterday, and Andy Lin, CEO of Yo-Kai, confirmed to us via Linkedin that the machine went live last week. It’s located in Terminal 3, near gate E4, and from the looks of the picture, it’s right next to the Cafe X robot-barista (more on that in a minute).
Yo-Kai Express is a self-contained machine that serves up bowls of hot ramen noodles in about 45 seconds. The recipes for the ramen were developed by a Michelin-star chef (they are delicious), and they are stored frozen inside the machine. When you order on the touchscreen, a proprietary process re-heats the ramen and serves it up, complete with utensils.
From the SFO picture, this seems to be the latest version of the Yo-Kai machine, which features dual dispensers. Yo-Kai added this second delivery slot to reduce wait times for customers.
Yo-Kai is part of the emerging cohort of high-end vending machines, which also includes Chowbotics, Bake Xpress, Briggo and Cafe X. These companies are re-imagining what a vending machine can be, serving up fresh food at all hours of the day.
As mentioned earlier, it looks as though this new Yo-Kai is parked right next to the Cafe X at SFO. The two were actually neighbors in downtown San Francisco at the Metreon, before Cafe X shuttered its in-city locations.
But this type of food+drink placement is exactly what I wrote about a couple of weeks back. Because automated vending machines and kiosks have a smaller physical footprint, you can create a 24-hour, mini-food court in smaller corners an airport or hospital or any high-traffic location. Yo-Kai and Cafe X should be talking with one another to do cross-promotions (buy a bowl of ramen, get a coupon for an ice tea!).
These high-end vending machines will probably have a slight adoption curve at first as people get used to the idea of fresh food coming from an automated machine. People are more used to getting a Twix bar from a vending machine than a craft latte or Black Garlic Oil Tonkotsu Ramen. But that will change and soon there will be all types of cuisine waiting for us as we wait for our planes.