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FOOD & BEVERAGE | Staff Reporter, Singapore

Unmanned cafeterias, fresh meals

Chef-in-Box Vendcafé offers hot, quality meals served by machines.

The Chef-in-Box Vendcafé is a pioneering initiative in bustling Singapore: an unmanned cafeteria comprising a cluster of vending machines, which offers a complementary menu of hot meals, snacks and beverages -- providing busy consumers with the convenience of purchasing food 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

The Chef-in-Box VendCafé features six different types of machines, including the Chef-in-Box hot food vending machines, a highlight of the Chef-in-box VendCafé, as an innovative solution to a growing community issue. That is, Singapore's manpower crunch, which leads to some establishments being unable to operate round the clock to cater to consumers' needs.

"The meals are freshly prepared by professional chefs who specialise in the various cuisines and flavours," says Jocelyn Chng, Founder, Chef-in-Box Vendcafé. "They work with our R&D and food technologists to ensure that the freshness of the ingredients and the nutrients in the meals are not lost in the production process, tapping on our expertise as food manufacturers and food solutions provider."

Chng notes that utmost care is taken in the production process to maintain freshness and retain nutrients as Chef-in-Box meals contain no preservatives, additives or artificial flavourings, Chef-in-Box meals are also made with fresh ingredients and quality produce prepared in a Halal, GMP and ISO 22 000 certified kitchen, she continues.

Chng says the Chef-in-Box VendCafé has stringent controls and processes put in place, from the selection of raw materials, suppliers and the process of production to delivery. Technologies and standard processes allow them to trace all food dispatched.

State-of-the-art technology

The Chef-in-Box hot food vending machines will showcase 10 to 12 meals per machine at any one time. This choice rotation is based-off the demand by consumers using a basic menu which includes local and western meal choices. "Using our SMART technology, we have insights into consumer preference at machines located at any one location and are able to stock up more on those types of food," says Chng.

The technology, notes Chng, provides the company insights into consumer purchasing patterns allowing it to customise the product mix at each location. This optimises customer service and minimises excess stock of less popular items.

New products are also rolled out in all machines, she says. "Similar to a brick-and-mortar establishment, we will also be rolling out promotional and seasonal meals for festive seasons such as Christmas and Chinese New Year," Chng shares.

As part of a food manufacturer and food solutions provider, Chng says she and her group have been supplying to hotels, restaurants, food caterers and quick service restaurant chains for years. "Our group’s experience in operating restaurants and cafeterias also frame our understanding of current operational issues such as the labour crunch and the need for higher labour productivity," she says.

"We’re thrilled to offer this new complete dining experience where we can demonstrate how technology and food work together to meet the demands of consumers’ urban lifestyles, offering the ultimate convenience of wholesome quality food 24 hours every day," Chng says.

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Unmanned cafeterias, fresh meals

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