Food

Food ATMs Could Be The Evolution Of Fast Food

What if instead of getting a dry bag of pretzels out of a vending machine, you could get a juicy hamburger? If this is what your gluttonous dreams are made of, you're in luck. Fast food is getting even faster as it moves towards unmanned ATMs for cupcakes, pizza, and other delights.

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Guilty Pleasures, 24/7

Though fairly common in Japan—ramen vending machines began popping up there as early as the 1990s—Americans first discovered automated food machines with the 2012 introduction of the 24/7 cupcake-dispensing ATM at Sprinkles Cupcakes in Beverly Hills, California. The dispensers can hold up to 600 cupcakes at a time, and they're constantly restocked with fresh cupcakes—for people and for dogs—throughout the day. If you live near one, say goodbye to midnight cravings and hello to zero judgment!

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Easy access to delicious junk food doesn't stop there. A 24-hour pizza ATM was unveiled at Xavier University in Cincinnati, Ohio in 2016. Invented by a French company called Paline, these pizza ATMs have actually been around for 15 years with more than 300 machines operating across Europe. How does Xavier's pizza ATM work? First, their dining hall staff assembles the pizzas. Then, they fill the machine with 70 pizzas at a time. You then pick your toppings on a touch screen, press a button, and voilà! In three (devastatingly long) minutes, the ATM cooks and delivers a piping hot, 12-inch pizza. Where was this when we were in college?

Want Fries With That? Press A Button.

While we've only experienced these one-off food ATMs thus far, the future of robot-only quick service is approaching. In January 2017, McDonald's held a pop-up "customized digital Big Mac ATM" at a store in Boston. McDonald's marketing team claims the ATM was a one-day only affair to promote their new Junior Mac and Grand Mac burgers. However, Timothy Carone, a University of Notre Dame professor and author of the book Future Automation: Changes to Lives and to Businesses tells Boston Globe that technology will go beyond marketing—the shift towards automation in the fast-food industry is "inevitable."

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Chains like McDonald's have already implemented self-order touchscreens. Others, like Eatsa in San Francisco, simply use iPads. These automations could certainly decrease labor costs, but what will it mean for the future of fast-food workers? They might be competing with robots.

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Written by Curiosity Staff February 10, 2017