Would You Eat A Salad From A Vending Machine?

I’ve been living in hotels full time for almost six months now and the way I see it there are two major downsides to it (while almost everything else is awesome):

  • Laundry. You don’t appreciate how awesome having your own washer and dryer is until one of your biggest chores becomes figuring out how to do laundry.
  • Fresh food. I never thought I’d have cravings for yogurt or fresh fruit, but these things things are in short supply when living in hotels.

Anyway, I recently stayed at the Marriott O’Hare for FTU Advanced, and Magic of Miles pointed out to me an awesome feature of this hotel (which she has written about bef0re) — the hotel has a healthy vending machine.

Apparently the Marriott O’Hare is a test property for this concept. Farmer’s Fridge has a vending machine in the hotel, which has fresh salads, fruit, yogurt parfaits, rice, etc.

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Farmer’s Fridge vending machine

Here’s how they describe their kiosks:

  • We get fresh produce every morning.
  • We arrive at 5 a.m. and make everything from scratch… daily.
  • We make everything in our local, fully licensed, shared kitchen… daily.
  • We deliver the salads to the machine at 10 a.m. and remove the unsold salads (which we donate to a local food pantry)… daily.
  • We discount any unsold salads by $1 at 6 p.m. … nightly.
  • All the food is in jars, and then there are plates and utensils next to the machine.

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Farmer’s Fridge vending machine food

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Farmer’s Fridge vending machine food

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Farmer’s Fridge vending machine plates and utensils

And here are the facts they list about the kiosks:

  •  The Farmer’s Fridge kiosk accepts all major credit cards.
  • Touch screens, bar code scanners for coupons and email receipts make it super user-friendly. We haven’t tested this, but it may actually hug you, too.
  • Product images, nutrition and ingredient information are in a large, easy to read format.
  • You can buy multiple items at once.
  • Power consumption for each machine is under $25 worth of electricity a month.
  • It keeps your food at the perfect temperature.

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Farmer’s Fridge vending machine ordering system

This is such a brilliant concept that I wish every hotel had. I’m afraid the Marriott O’Hare really isn’t doing justice to it, though, since they placed the vending machine in a back room right by the entrance to the employee-only area. Unless you specifically knew to look for it you wouldn’t know it existed.

What do you think of the concept? Would you use this vending machine if a hotel you were staying at offered it?

Comments

  1. Their product looks better than the “Lite Bites” sandwich I was just offered as a First Class meal by AA. I’m pretty sure it came from a vending machine next to the crew lounge.

  2. I’d try it – looks sweet.

    Also how are you short on fresh fruit? I always like hotel buffets because there are so many options of fresh fruit and I don’t have the wash and peel/cut it.

  3. What are these selling for? I would definitely buy these when traveling unless the cost was too high.

  4. Awesome idea, but like you said – I don’t know why this wasn’t out in the open more. I didn’t even notice it when we were there.

  5. Ben,

    Laundry? There is a bag in the closet clipped to sheet of paper. Toss your clothes into the bag, write your name and room number on the paper and either hang on the door or leave at reception.

    As if by magic, your clothes will appear clean and hanging in your closet the next day. If you’re lucky all your underware will be pressed and folded and wrapped in tissue paper in their own special box.

  6. This seems like a good idea but as much as Americans say they want healthy food, they dont tend to buy it. McDonalds talks about their salads and grilled chicken options but on their sales figures those items make up only a small percentage of revenue. People buy burgers and fries.

    The problem with this idea is turnover. Food only staying good one day is a big limitation. In order to make this work they would have to interact with the hotel and get occupany numbers. They can always make less food but they need to know how many guests will be in the hotel and over time figure out how much food to make for a given occupancy rate to maximize the sales to waste ratio. I’d like to see this work but I am not convinced there are enough travelers who are committed to eating healthy. That said, these salads are high margin goods. Prepared in bulk the costs per unit could be pretty low with profit per sale at several hundred perent which may make the concept feasible.

  7. Had the high protein salad on flight home after FTU. I normally don’t check vending machines but someone pointed it out the night before, and I was curious. The spinach was very fresh and plentiful. Dressing was a little tart but edible. Kept finding quinoa on my blanket, but I ate out of the wide-mouth bottle as I didn’t want to carry the bowl on the plane. I would have liked more quinoa and other veggies.

    Added a hard boiled egg (from the Marriott lounge that had a nice breakfast spread–too bad it wasn’t open during the weekend), which made for a filling late lunch and snack (I couldn’t eat all the spinach in one sitting).

    There are a variety of salads and three protein add-ons. I’d definitely buy it again as it is much better than the salads on-board. The plastic jar made the salad much easier to carry than a flimsy box.

  8. Fascinating– I stay at this hotel probably 3-4 times a month, and never knew this existed! I will be asking where this is the next time I check in there.

    Thanks Ben!

  9. I would LOVE to have these vending machines everywhere in place of the traditional machines! If they put these things in office buildings, they’d make a killing…but if I had a dollar for every time I’ve been in a hotel and was craving a healthy snack but didn’t want to shell out the ridiculous money it would cost to order room service…I would be a millionaire! This is the best.

  10. I would definitely buy from the machine. Maybe the airlines should have these for sale on board. I would rather pay for one of these salads then wonder how long the salad I am served was sitting uncovered right next to the bathroom door……

  11. Was just checking out their site and was not liking it so much because nothing had meat/protein, but then noticed in addition to the salads they sell chicken/tuna/tofu/salmon separately, which is amazing.

  12. @ PurduExpat
    The machine is to the left of the check-in counter; it is easy to miss. Two of the agents said that they have tried a few of the salads and like them. Most of the salads were $8. I didn’t check the protein prices but think the cut veggies/hummus combo was $4. Enjoy!

  13. Looks like something I would buy if I knew it existed. They really need to reposition it where folks will see it rather than hiding it near the staff areas.

  14. i would totally buy those salads!
    one thing of eating on the road is the lack of fresh, healthy options.
    great idea.

  15. As someone who used to live in hotels fulltime, not really interested in salad from a machine when I can buy it in the grocery store for significantly less.
    Also both of your issues are solved when staying at extended stay places
    Iike homewood suites as I get access to a laundry room and have a kitchenette for keeping fresh food. I realize they don’t compare to some of the swanky places you stay at but they’re generally cheaper and I don’t have to rely on upgrades to have a separate work and sleep space.

  16. On the fresh fruit item, most Concierge Lounges in the USA (Marriott in particular) have fresh fruits In their lounges all day (when the lounge is open). I know you consider the food served in US hotel CL’s as junk food, but some do offer fresh fruit items all day. Next time try a US CL.

  17. This is a great idea! I hope it succeeds so it becomes more widespread. I’ve bought salads from a local convenience store chain, so these can’t be worse and are probably much better. (I once got a salad with a cockroach leg in it and I had a hard time going back to them after that.)

  18. I love this idea! I wish that it were at more locations. As a vegetarian who travels for a living, I think this is awesome!

  19. Saw this machine at “The Shops at North Bridge” in Chicago couple weeks ago. At the Michigan Avenue mall where Nordstrom and the Conrad are. Right in front of the Intercontinental.

    Went by it late and it was mostly empty but do remember prices were a bit steep at 11-13$ per salad. But maybe that had to do with the location.

    Did end up trying the grilled chicken for research purposes. 2$ for a little container with about 10-15grs of protein.

  20. I LOVE Farmer’s Fridge. They have 3 or 4 machines in buildings in downtown Chicago and I’ve gotten salads from them multiple times. They sell like hot cakes, I went at 1:15 one day and there were only a few salads left and 1 kind of meat available.

  21. Dear Lucky, I really enjoyed your review about this fresh food concept at Hotels with Farmer´s Fridge, indeed I will like to make a couple of questions to you, if it is possible for you to send me an email so we can speak it would be awesome.

    Thanks!
    Jose García
    joseegq@gmail.com

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