Yesterday an automatic fries machine was presented at Restaurant of the Future. During the development of the machine Startup Caenator worked in collaboration with Wageningen researchers and received funding from Startlife. The vending machine will tour the campus in the following weeks.
Photo: Louise Fresco tries the first vending machine fries / Sven Menschel
‘Wow’, said Chairman Louise Fresco when the fries were revealed. Next to the container lies a small box with salt, ketchup and a small fork. Within two minutes the frying machine, that looks like any ordinary vending machine, fries 135 gram of frozen fries. The consumer can choose for mayonnaise, ketchup or a different sauce. All for one euro. The creators are confident that these fries machines will become a common sight. In large offices, at stations and at airports the hungry customer can grab a portion of fries at any hour of the day.
Developer Caenator received help from Wageningen UR with the technical challenges they faced in the past two years. The fries must get damaged, and it is challenging to have a freezer compartment of -18 degrees next to a frying pan of 185 degrees Celsius. In addition, it is important that there are no disturbing smell emitted around the machine. Especially for the latter challenge the knowledge of Wageningen about for example air washer was essential, said Marc Derksen, general manager at Caenator. Just like the 100 thousand euro subsidy received from Startlife.
The startup also received help from Wageningen while making the business plan. After discussions with Hans van Trijp, professor Marketing and Consumer Behaviour, the company targeted caterers. Caterers often only provide warm food for part of the day, for example during the break at Forum. Thanks to this fries machine they can provide warm food throughout the day. This will stop consumers – and income – from going to external competitors. But first, the fries machine will tour across campus. Using the feedback from consumers and operators a new prototype will be made. Afterwards the company wants to gradually increase scale.
A fries machine does not seem to be a smart innovation during a time where researchers are worried about ‘fattening environments’; a society where (unhealthy) food is always readily available. Bastiaan Roest from Caenator does not agree. ‘Fries or potatoes are not always unhealthy’, he says, ’but it depends on the diet they are combined with.’
Above all the machine provides to a demand. He illustrates this with an example of headquarters at a large bank. The catering here is closed during the afternoons and there is no food provided for the people that work overtime. ‘Around six o’clock the counter is full with couriers who deliver shawarma for example.’ Roest want to help the caterers that are now missing out on income. ‘Sometimes people just crave some fries’ he says.