Hot food vending machines have been available from a range of suppliers, such as Italian company Bicom, plus the likes of Hallmark Vending and Revive in the UK, for a number of years. However, while they are popular in countries such as Italy, Asia and the US, they haven’t really caught on in the same way so far in the UK.
But Bidvest Foodservice’s ceo Andrew Selley hopes the SmartScreen technology incorporated in his company’s vending machines could change that by encouraging visitors to the nation’s hospitals, train stations, hotels and music festivals to try out a different way of consuming hot and frozen food and drink.
Bidvest Foodservice in the UK, which is owned by South African international services, trading and distribution parent company Bidvest, employs around 4,500 people and operates from 25 locations across Britain.
Working in conjunction with a Brighton-based developer of SmartScreens, Bivest Foodservice has developed a vending machine called Ooft, a development of its SmartStore vending machine, which features innovative consumer interfacing technology.
It will be capable of heating 15 ambient ready meals in just two minutes, as well as dispensing other ambient, chilled and frozen foods, including desserts such as ice cream.
Speaking at the British Frozen Food Federation’s annual conference last Tuesday (March 1), Selley described his company’s approach to innovation. Bivest Foodservice markets a range of four own-brand products: ‘Everyday Favourites’, ‘Premium Selection’ and ‘Farmstead’ and ‘Essential supplies’, which covers non-food items.
“Yes, innovation is sexy; innovation is exciting, but you’ve got to have some structure behind it,” said Selley. “We are trying to find partnerships with innovative entrepreneurs.”
The new Ooft vending machines, which have been trialled at a naval station, are capable of meeting variable demand for food and drink, 24 hours a day. They are likely to be targeted at a range of outlets: everything from offices and hospitals to music festivals, said Selley.
Ooft vending machines
He added that the appeal of the new Ooft vending machines will be the extended capability of foods it is able to dispense, together with the visual difference of SmartStore to conventional vending machines. The Ooft name apparently derives form noise some people make when they pick up something hot, said Selley.
“The key point of difference on it is a 27-inch touchscreen, which is a touchscreen when you are operating it,” said Selley.
“But when you are not operating it, it’s an advertising medium where you can do visuals of the food when it’s heated and cooked and all nicely presented. So that will be quite a big draw.”