<b>DINING OUT | </b>By Mina Williams For the Weekly Herald
From the Automat restaurants of the early 1900s to today’s high tech vending machines offering freshly cooked French fries, Americans have a love affair with fast, convenient food whether they are working or playing.
Vending machines have become a stalwart in factories, offices, school campuses and airports, growing to a $100 billion a year industry, according to the National Automatic Merchandising Association.
Coffee vending machines came upon the scene in 1946. Cold sandwiches became available in 1950 and pop in cans opened vending options up in 1961.
The allure of the vending machine is generally rooted in the harried schedules that hold workers captive. The convenience of a vending machine, standing at the ready when your stomach is rumbling, is appealing. Offering an array of food ranging from classic salty snacks, pop, candy and gum to healthful options including hard-boiled eggs and fruit with peanut butter it’s no wonder that Americans find themselves fishing for coins to ply into the nearest vending machine.
Today vending machines answer the call for a hot meal in a flash or simply a fast bite without a journey and pesky human interaction.
Technology now allows crisp fries, grilled hot dogs, chilled farm-fresh eggs, and DIY ice cream to be available at the touch of a button – or swipe of an ATM card.
The industry is also making steps toward presenting nutritional bargains at vending machines. Vitamin-rich orange or grapefruit juice, calcium fortified milk and yogurt and low-fat pretzels plus fresh fruit bring refreshment rather than calories of sweet snacks.
Since life is not slowing down, it looks as if vending machines are here to stay.
Even Bellevue-based Coinstar is proving that everything old is new again with their recent announcement that it has put together a deal with Starbucks Corp. offering the coffee giant’s Seattle’s Best Coffee brand in vending machine format.
They expect about 500 Rubi coffee kiosks in the Northeast and West Coast by the end of the year in grocery, drug and mass merchant stores.
What are your favorite snacks and treats you get from local vending machines?
Salted nuts … or the chocolate bars that contain them … depending.
Yes You Can Health and Fitness members, coaches and trainers love the vending machines that sell fresh apples!
Yes You Can Health and Fitness, Arlington
Tim’s Jalapeno Potato Chips are my favorite … salty with a little bit of kick. One bag is a nice serving size.