Japan deserves every ounce of praise it gets for its drink vending machines. One of the greatest luxuries in life is walking around Japan on a brisk day in late fall, knowing that there’s an entire array of machines stationed around the city with hot beverages like green tea, hot chocolate, and yuzu citrus with lemon…not to mention vending machines stocked with beer if you prefer to cope with the cold with the power of alcohol.
On the other hand, Japan’s food vending machines generally aren’t much to write home about. Most banks of vending machines don’t offer any edible options, and those that do usually just have a weak selection of run-of-the-mill chocolates. But that’s going to be changing soon with the introduction of beef bowl vending machines.
On Nov 5, Matsuya, Japan’s second-biggest gyudon (beef bowl) chain, installed its first-ever vending machine. Located in the employee cafeteria of Tokyo-based mobile game company Gree, the machine is stocked with a variety of dishes from Matsuya’s regular restaurant menu, including its standard beef bowl, beef bowl with sesame marinade and burdock root, ginger pork, and curry. Prices are in the 450-500 yen range, with the standard beef bowl being 70 yen more expensive than the in-restaurant price, but that’s a small premium to pay for convenience.
Gree employee and Twitter user @ocapiiii recently bought a beef bowl from the machine, and reports that it tastes just as good as the tasty ones Matsuya serves up in its restaurants. It even comes with miso soup, the liquid freebie that’s one of Matsuya’s most popular advantages over rival Yoshinoya, which charges extra for it.
However, while Matsuya’s vending machine vends, it doesn’t actually cook. Instead, the cooking is handled by a Matsuya branch, in Gree’s case a take-out only location which makes deliveries to stock the machine twice a day, once in the morning, before the lunch rush, and again in the late afternoon. After purchasing your beef bowl or other food, you warm it up in a microwave adjacent to the machine, and add hot water to the freeze-dried pack of miso soup that comes with your order.
@ocapiiii says the beef bowl vending machine is already a hit among her coworkers, and Matsuya plans to roll out an enhanced version this coming spring, with an initial installation target of 100-200 machines.
Sources: Twitter/@ocapiiii via IT Media, Livedoor News/J Town Net via Otakomu
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