New High-Tech Chip Machine Vends Fries in Flash for Cash

Drop the euro coin right into the slot – you want to eat something that’s really hot. The french fry vending machine is ready to sell, just tap the color screen’s condiment icon and presto-change-o: the order will be transformed from frozen to your chosen snack or side dish in less than two minutes flat.

As the new school year began, Dutch start-up company Caenator, in collaboration with StartLife and Wageningen University & Research Centre in the Netherlands, unveiled the latest generation of fully automatic chip vending machines at the Restaurant of the Future on the Wageningen campus. Enjoying the honor of sampling the first serving of fries was Professor Louise Fresco, president of the executive board of Wageningen UR.

The equipment, a combination of high-tech ingenuity and astonishing simplicity, makes it a snap to obtain freshly fried chips fully automatically, any time at all. It prepares an order of chips in just 110 seconds and is profitable after dispensing 40 portions per day. Moreover, it is soundless, odor free and safe.

Prof-Fresco contentProfessor Louise Fresco examines the first batch of fries dispensed in a paper cup by the vending machine during a press conference at Wageningen University & Research Centre. Salt and a plastic fork are supplied in a separate box.

The machine's magnetic lock is opened using a digital key. Behind the door is a chip reservoir, an internal transport system, frying unit and controller. The freezer compartment has room for 25 kilograms of frozen chips, which are weighed for individual servings and held ready for frying at approximately 170°C. After preparation, a lift transports them to the dispenser. A double door separates the hot section of the machine from the freezer, the sauces (choice of mayonnaise, ketchup or curry) and the screen. The latter was developed in close collaboration with specialists from Wageningen UR.

Caenator has applied for two patents. One is for the chip distribution system, which does not break or mash the fries. The other is for the odor scrubber, a built-in cleaning system which scrubs released vapor twice.

The prototype will remain in action at the campus restaurant indefinitely. Together with Sodexo (the caterer) and other partners, it is now being tested on the public. Interest has been shown in the chip machine from far and wide, as strategic partners are being sought for distribution in various markets.

"Caterers and bar and restaurant owners see the machine as a way to retain or increase their turnover. Public transport companies see it as a way to make waiting less annoying. For various budget hotels, it is a way to offer a service to their guests 24/7," said Bastiaan Roest of Caenator.

Hans van Trijp, professor of marketing and consumer Behavior at Wageningen University, commented: "It creates the opportunity in a new, out-of-doors setting, to be less dependent on staff."

The business case was developed in collaboration with StartLife, a Wageningen-based organization dedicated to assisting fledgling entrepreneurs in the agro, food and living environment sectors. The innovators behind the Caenator concept were coached and financially supported in the start-up phase by the StartLife incubation program.