SAN FRANCISCO – A vending industry startup based here said it has completed a pilot for its automated glass-door kiosk that allows customers to grab, pay and go quickly and conveniently. The self-serve retail concept from a company called Pantry is designed to shorten waiting lines during busy peak hours, sell fresh food in more locations, and track item-level inventory and sales.
All products placed in the cooler carry an RFID tag. The Pantry system tracks each item as it enters and leaves the kiosk, providing efficient inventory control with no manual data entry needed. Consumers can purchase items of all shapes and sizes, from salads and sandwiches to sushi, in 10 seconds. They swipe their credit or debit card or enter a PIN code to unlock the door and retrieve any product, inspect it and read its ingredients (if they wish) before making a decision to purchase. They can complete their transaction by touching a button on the machine's screen, or can return the product to its shelf and close the door -- which will relock -- if they choose not to buy.
"The transaction experience is like magic. It breaks the perception many people have of buying food from a machine," said Pantry cofounder Alex Yancher.
The coolers measure 60" high x 24" wide x 24" deep. Each can hold 160 sandwiches or 60 salads, if stocked exclusively with one or the other, or a range of other food and beverages.
"It's not too big for a breakroom or hallway, and not too small for an office of any size," Yancher explained. He said the company can retrofit its technology to any size glass-door cooler.
Pantry piloted the program with cafeteria and café clients at the University of California San Francisco Medical Center's foodservice program and Stanford Hospital, through a partnership with Sodexo.