3 Automated Restaurant Innovations

The are striving to meet consumers demands of convenience

A growing number of companies in the foodservice world are growing their brand with automated or self-service outlets as they strive to meet consumer demand for convenience.

Vending machines have been around for decades, but they traditionally have offered little more than a candy bar and soda. Other countries, particularly Japan, have made advances in vending machine technology for fresh foods, but America has been slow to catch up.

However, seeing retailers like Best Buy sell electronic gadgets through vending machines at airports and other nontraditional locations could fuel a new trend among restaurants, according to Dennis Lombardi, executive vice president of consulting firm WD Partners.

Lombardi predicted that restaurant companies will partner with vending companies and find other labor-efficient ways to bring their brands where they might never have gone before.

"Certainly in food it has been talked about for a long time,” said Lombardi. “It’s a great way of extending the reach of your brand once you develop the technology to offer a product that represents your brand well.”

Charles Nelson, cofounder of the Sprinkles cupcake chain, based in Los Angeles, said automated delivery methods make sense in particular for brands that are in demand beyond the traditional hours of service. “We pay rent 24 hours a day," he said. "Why not be able to sell our product 24 hours a day?”

Here's a look at automated innovations offered by three restaurant operators.

FirstSprinkles Cupcakes