A trip to the vending machine will usually yield some pretty unhealthy and unsatisfying snacks.
A Chicago-based entrepreneur is looking to change that with a healthy twist on the vending machine, an experiment he calls the Farmer’s Fridge.
Luke Saunders opened his first kiosk back in October at Chicago’s Garvey Food Court, an eating center that’s already host to McDonald’s and Dunkin’ Doughnuts, among other fast-food options.
At the Farmer’s Fridge, on the other hand, you can use a touchscreen to order from a menu packed with super-nutritious items, like a fresh kale salad with quinoa, fennel, pineapple, and blueberries, or a Napa salad with avocado, grapes, and pistachios. They even sell sliced veggies with hummus and Greek yogurt mixed with berries.
“I want to make it fast and easy for someone to choose a delicious, nutritious smart meal when they are on-the-go,” Saunders said in a press release. “What we’re doing is taking the vending machine concept and revolutionizing it.”
Each salad is made fresh each morning and delivered by 10 a.m. Ingredients are layered in an airtight jar, which helps keep everything fresh inside.
The glass serving jar can be recycled on-site, or be washed and reused. Even the kiosk’s design is environmentally responsible — it’s made out of reclaimed barn wood, and refrigerated to keep salads from wilting.
According to Saunders, having his business in a vending machine allows for a level of flexibility that wouldn’t be possible with a physical store.
“We aren’t tied to currently available space, and I can move the machine if a spot turns out to be a dud. The machine also operates 24 hours a day and doesn’t require staff to operate,” Saunders said to Business Insider. “We do not save much on labour because we still make and deliver the food. However, having it open and available 24 hours means that the healthy options we offer are more accessible.”
Though Saunders says the company’s focus is the Chicago area, they hope to one day be a national brand.
And Yelp reviews are raving — one guest says the salads are “crazy-fresh, super-crunchy, and full of goodness” while another says they were “fast, fresh, and packed with a lot of yummy ingredients.”
Salads start at $US8, and there’s a weekly “Jar du Jour” special for $US7. Any unsold salads are discounted by $US1 starting at 6 p.m. each evening, then anything that’s still unsold the next morning is taken to a local food pantry.
But if the kiosk’s growing popularity is any indication, that won’t be necessary for long.
“Our number one requested software feature is to be able to buy more salads at once,” Saunders said. “So that is a good sign!”
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