As most visitors to Japan's major urban areas can surely attest to, this country has an astonishing diversity of food and drink vending machines. Vending machines not only sell countless different brands of beverages, both hot and cold, but there are also vending machines selling everything from pizza, curry rice, frozen ramen and even high-quality French cuisine.
With the novel coronavirus pandemic, food vending machines have diversified even further, on the one hand giving businesses an alternative way of selling products and helping them recoup some of the loss caused by a drop in in-person sales, and on the other hand, giving customers a way of enjoying food in a safe, convenient and socially distant manner.
One such vending machine can be found in the popular Shibuya neighborhood of Tokyo. It's called Salad Stand. The colorful exterior of the machine is inspired by earth, grass, sky, and sun. A peek inside reveals a colorful array of salads, just like those served in restaurants.
The 蒸し鶏とキヌアの栄養サラダ (mushidori to kinua no eiyo sarada "Nutritious Salad with Steamed Chicken and Quinoa") costs 980 yen and includes leafy greens such as romaine lettuce, frilly lettuce and spinach, steamed chicken, quinoa (a superfood grain known for its high nutritional value), almonds, oranges, and all kinds of other healthy ingredients. The crispy leafy vegetables and crunchy almonds make for a fun change of texture. The salad comes with a special dressing and the edible flowers add a touch of color.
To see all the available salads, check out Salad Stand's website here.
According to 新井伸朗 Nobuaki Arai, Chief Executive Officer / CLO of Kompeito, the company that operates Salad Stand, they conducted a trial installation in November 2020 and went into full-scale operation in November 2021. The company plans to expand into commercial facilities and office buildings in the city center.
The vending machines are fully automatic and can handle cashless payment, a feature that has become even more important during the pandemic.
In addition, Salad Stand is equipped with the latest technology using AI to reduce food loss. According to Kompeito CTO Yuki Umezu, the AI sensor at the top of the vending machine measures the number of passersby and people who stop in front of it. The machine's AI analyzes this data, including the expiration date of the salads, allowing the company to adjust the number of salads to be restocked and the timing of price reductions, leading to fewer unsold salads. In the future, the company plans to further improve the accuracy of the system based on weather information and other factors.
If you'd like to try Salad Stand the next time you're in Shibuya, you'll find it on the second-floor lounge of the 渋谷ソラスタ SHIBUYA SOLASTA office building.
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