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Vending Machine Munchies

Yeah, I know. As you see for our particular lunch room snacks vending machine, it stocks pretty much what you’d find anywhere around the U.S., with nothing region specific to Hawaii at all.

With exception to the cold drinks, same for the meals vending machine…

The vendor who maintains our vending machines gets most of his inventory from Sam’s Club, which is quite obvious. He used to bring in fresh, locally made deli sandwiches and fresh fruit bowls. However he stopped doing that, saying he was losing too much money on inventory that didn’t sell due to their relatively short stamped-on expiration dates.

With Japan being such a high tech, fast-paced country, along with limited space, it’s no surprise they’ve taken the lead in the vending machine industry, where according to Wikipedia, per capita, there’s one vending machine for every twenty-three people. And the goods dispensed in Japanese vending machines vary quite broadly, from the mundane to the extreme. From capsule” toys, to adult toys, to beer, sake and cigarettes, and of course food; many of which dispensed in a prepared, ready-to-eat state using precision robotics and automation.

Speaking of which, back here at the Honolulu International Airport, one interesting non-grindz vending machine that caught my eye was this Best Buy Express….

Read one account of a Best Buy Express vending machine experience here.

Then there’s the classic Automat…


Bamn! Automat – Photo courtesy of Sandy Leonard Snaps blog

Being we’re such a consumer-driven society in Hawaii,  you’d think an Automat modeled like Bamn! would do quite well here, especially in the downtown Honolulu and Waikiki area, where it could serve for extended late night hours. However, apparently Bamn! didn’t last on the east coast, where folks on discussion boards complained of overpriced, mostly fried foods and rubbish all over the place during after hours when it’s minimally staffed. No question an automat in Waikiki after the post-club crowd got through it would be a complete mess. McDonald’s can barely keep up with sloppy late night patrons at their Waikiki restaurants. Still, it’s a novel concept, “novelty” being the operative word, apparently.

As always, even for vending machines, I always hope to see local foods offered. I wish our vending machine operator would bring back these ready-to-serve (just add hot water) Okahara Saimin bowls (switched between that and S&S)..


Okahara’s Ready-to-Serve Saimin Bowl

Since they already sell it frozen in stores, it would be nice if Zippy’s made similar ready-to-serve bowls of their Portuguese Bean Soup and Chili that could be dispensed like this in vending machines. I could see that being quite popular in local vending machines.


Zippy’s Portuguese Bean Soup with Diamond Soda Crackers

Which begs to ask the question: do the vending machines in your neck of the woods offer anything unique to your company or school’s mantra, such as “healthier living”? Or “organic”? Or “Haute”? Or being particularly regional specific. The latter of which question, being, say, does your company or school vending machines offer locally-made specialty foods?

Do you have any favorite ono kine vending machine grindz?

20 thoughts on “Vending Machine Munchies

  • November 6, 2013 at 7:55 pm
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    When I was in college, the 24 hour vending room had far more variety than now days. Not only the old hot coffee and tea machines, candy and chip machines, but a vending machine that distributed hot foods. All canned, but the real deal. Typically things like BeenieWeenies, Vienna Sausage various soups, etc. all in fairly small cans. My usual purchase was corned beef hash. Tableware, napkins, condiments were free. That room was not ever graffitied or vandalized in 4 years. LOL. The nerds and night owls would take down the drunk in a second.

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    • November 7, 2013 at 5:34 am
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      pat, oh, speaking of institutions, I now remember the vending machine at the Kaiser Moanalua dining hall had a GREAT selection of both hot, cold and frozen foods, including this really cool ice cream vending machine that uses a robotic arm to pull the ice cream from open boxes seen in the freezer box within the glass window. Same concept like that robotic arm game in game room arcades that picks stuffed animals and cheap electronic gadgets.

      The local 7 Eleven could start their own vending machine business with the wide selection of prepared hot foods they now carry. I could definitely see a 7 Eleven vending machine business becoming a widespread hit.

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  • November 7, 2013 at 3:50 am
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    As much some people like the automation of vending machines it does take away jobs much needed still to earn a living. Self serve is still good to speed up getting what you want instead of waiting for workers to serve to you. In Taipei and other Asian business self serve in food is great your in and out in no time with what you want.

    Some times I wish okazuyas business wasmore like that also to speed things up in getting what you want and go. They should pre package the food and customers pick up what they want and pay at the cashier stand instead having counter person get this and that for you and other customers.

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    • November 7, 2013 at 5:26 am
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      Amy,

      Ultimately, what you’re pointing at is the EXPERIENCE. And both being served by a person, or by a vending machine really can be a unique experience in their own right.

      Personally, I’d NEVER want an Okazuya to be prepackaged, and God Forbid, dispensed by some machine…. that would totally be a deal breaker! I l LOVE standing there at the okazuya counter, somewhat self-doubtful what I really want, as I hesitantly tell Mama-San, “I like one fish cake, one gobo Kinpira, one ume musubi”…. etc. LOVE that interaction! Plus, I want to SEE the dishes in pans, not stuck pre-packed behind some coin-operated glass door.

      Yet vending machines can be an experience, too, especially if its really high tech, and prepares your meal for you, like so many do in Japan. I must say, the vending machines in our lunch room — which are probably the most commonly found in the U.S. — use that now old fashioned motorized coiled wire feed system that drops your selection to the dispenser door bin below. Which I don’t know, but something about my food being DROPPED before I eat it doesn’t always feel that great. It’s especially irking when the larger bowls of dry ramen get stuck in the door. Ack! Then there’s that selection that never makes it out of the coil and gets stuck, hence the sign saying not to shake the machine. I heard people have actually gotten seriously injured or killed from vending machines falling on them. What a way to go. “He must have really wanted that Snicker Bar”.

      Imagine if Subway went robotic? I totally see Japan being the first place to have a fully automated Subway restaurant. You could punch in what you want on your Subway smartphone App right at your work desk, then when you get to Subway, it already detects your in the restaurant line by your GPS and the robot begins assembling your sandwich. To which in 30 seconds, you’ve already paid through your Subway app account and are walking out with your freshly made Subway sandwich, thanks to “Simon” the Subway robot. “Domo Arigato Mr. Roboto”.

      Reply
  • November 7, 2013 at 6:01 am
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    When I was in LA Chinatown there was a customer in front of me sure taking her sweet time in this dim sum shop. She want some dim sum big looking telling counter clerk “No I want that one it bigger and that one it better looking holding up the line doing that.

    I just wanted two items and leave after her lost interest and left anyway. Wish I could pick what I needed myself and pay up front and leave. It people like her make other want self serve more. I all for vending machines and love it in Japan and lot fun using it. The pizza one was great. The French fries just OK if you want just snack on it.

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  • November 7, 2013 at 6:08 am
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    Why do the Japanese sell everything under the sun in vending machines, and not have any problems, but in Hawaii we don’t? We need to get modernized.

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  • November 7, 2013 at 6:23 am
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    @ Kelike – there’s another idea… a robotic dim sum restaurant! Actually, they could model a dim sum restaurant after the “Sushi Robot” restaurants, sending dim sum along the conveyor belt instead of sushi. Problem solved, and no more feisty waitresses “pushing” dim sum you don’t want on you. lol

    @ Dean-San – I know right? Everything here tries to be “PC” and censored, yet underneath it all, we’re one of the most non-conservative societies. Remember when we had those old cigarette vending machines where you stick the coins in and it pulls out a whole pack using an old school knob system?

    http://2.bp.blogspot.com/_2RPsWSCwRZA/TGQ73kGJAUI/AAAAAAAAFJc/BLzVDYpxA7s/s1600/amach.jpg

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    • November 7, 2013 at 8:11 am
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      They have it in Singapore and Taiwan and it 24 hours dim sum restaurants. 126 Eating House in Singapore. City Star in Taipei is 24 hours and All You Can Eat Buffet is 24 hours.
      I try it in Singapore and is not bad on conveyor belt. They should do one in Honolulu.

      Reply
  • November 7, 2013 at 4:35 pm
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    Ugh, I just had a vending machine lunch today. And our office machine doesn’t have the variety that yours does, which meant I had chips.

    Not terribly exciting, but my favorite vending machine purchase would be a nightly bottle of hot tea in Tokyo. I usually go there in winter (it’s cheaper), and Tokyo is a lot colder than the Bay Area. On a freezing night, it’s nice to stop at a vending machine, get a bottle of hot tea to stuff in your pocket, then drink it in your hotel room as you slowly warm up. And of course, their tea selection beats anything we have here.

    “Begin Japanology” did an episode on vending machines a few years ago. Someone posted it on YouTube, so enjoy!

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JS5EV3zs7vE

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  • November 7, 2013 at 4:37 pm
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    If I’m not mistaken, that Japanese vending machine only allows you to prepay for your ramen order plus drinks for the restaurant to the left of the machine. You put your money in then you receive a ticket which you will present to the staff once you enter then you get your food. (Or were you being tongue in cheek as usual?)

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  • November 7, 2013 at 4:48 pm
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    Pomai,

    Hawaii has shelf stable milk in the grocery markets and drug stores.

    Now what they need to do is add the shelf stable sandwich and desserts from Bridgford Food Service with a 3-year shelf life: http://www.bridgfordfoodservice.net/ready_to_eat/

    For what it’s worth, sometimes the right shelf stable Hormel Completes® microwaveable meals are palatable for a quick lunch but you need a microwave to cook them. They even have a Spam & Roasted Potatoes in gravy, Spam & penne pasta in Alfredo sauce, Spam & red beans with rice, Spam & sausage jambalaya.

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  • November 7, 2013 at 6:23 pm
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    The Macy’s or Nordstrom stores around here have ipod, CK underwear (mens) and cologne (mens) vending machines. It’s kind of tacky.

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  • November 8, 2013 at 1:44 am
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    I glad Safeway Stores are in most parts selfserve. People like the bake good that they pick themselves without waiting. I sure glad they finally got their own Cronut like donuts and price way better NYC at 5.00 but 6.00 for 4 Cronuts.

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  • November 8, 2013 at 5:55 am
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    @ Kelike – There’s a bakery in Ala Moana also selling “Cronuts”, IIRC, $3 for one large one.

    @ h – When Neiman Marcus first opened in Ala Moana Center (Hawaii’s largest shopping center), the very first thing I looked at closely was a women’s cotton tank top. A BASIC cotton tank top, with no print or anything, except for some faded tie-dye treatment. Guess how much? $80. Which obviously was a precursor of even higher sticker shock to come.

    @ Ken-San – “Shelf Stable Milk” sounds VERY scary. I still wanna’ do an MRE blog post, however the excessive calories will certainly require I tie on my running shoes. Same for those Hormel “meals” you mention.

    @ Molly – Such as this Ramen-Ya.

    @ Debbie-Chan – Most EXCELLENT video documentary on all things vending machines in Japan! Domo arigato gozaimasu for the post! Only thing, it made my post pale in comparison. lol

    @ Dean-San – well, Amsterdam has been doing that for centuries, albeit sans a coin-op slot. Then there’s this.

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    • November 8, 2013 at 4:10 pm
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      Who wastes time on tank tops when there are SHOES to browse and buy?? :)

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      • November 8, 2013 at 4:59 pm
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        Why did I have a feeling you were going to say that? ;-) Actually, that was just the first thing I bothered to grab and look at the price tag. Now that you mention shoes, I’ll have to stop by Neiman Marcus’ shoe department next time I hit Ala Moana and get some prices. I’ll report back for sure!

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  • November 8, 2013 at 12:46 pm
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    Zippy should make Saimin Burger since Safeway make Cronuts .

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  • November 8, 2013 at 1:35 pm
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    Kelike,

    More specifically, make that a Zip Min Burger! I still have yet to do my Oki Burger. Yeah, baby! ;-)

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  • November 8, 2013 at 1:39 pm
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    Pomai,

    Shelf Stable Milk has been for sale on the Leeward side in the grocery markets and Longs Drugs for years. Borden Milk and Hershey’s Milk are main trade names.

    You didn’t say anything about fresh 3 year old shelf stable sandwiches which would help your vending machine owner not lose money due to short life span and slow turnaround.

    Military MRE not good idea! They are designed to provide excessive calories needed in combat. They also have a tendency to promote blockage so you will not be caught with your pants down. MREs are only good for 3 years. Military MRE flameless ration heaters [FRH] are known to give off hydrogen gas and March 2001 a cargo container full of FRH suddenly caught fire on the dock in Guam. Salt water activates the FRH and as the firemen were pumping ocean water to put out the fire it only made things worse. Google “Guam Meals Ready to Eat fire”.

    Most of the MREs meals are made by Oregon Freeze Dry Co. They make a civilian version which is way better, highly rated by outdoors and camping magazines and more balanced meal called Mountain House: http://www.mountainhouse.com/ . You can get them at any Hawaii Sports Authority sold with $0.40 to $1.00 markup of MFG suggested list price. Online reseller Emergency Essentials out of Utah: http://beprepared.com/ sells them at a discount price lower than MFG suggested list price. I have a 17 day supply of Mountain House meals (breakfast, lunch, dinner and dessert); the civilian style flameless ovens for heating the meals plus ½ cup and 1 cup water packages for my bug out Hawaii emergency backpack rations kit. The water packs have a life span of 5 years and the Mountain House freeze dried meals life span is 15 years. Mountain House Chicken Teriyaki with bamboo shoots, mushrooms, red peppers, green peas and rice $6.49 and Sweet & Sour Pork with pineapple, red peppers, onion and rice $6.39 are two of my favorites. They consider 1 cup a single person serving so I get the 2 serving size.

    Reply

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