Now you can grab pizza from an airport vending machine

Oct 30, 2021

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The automated retail trend – i.e., vending machines —  started picking up at airports before the pandemic, with machines dispensing everything from salads and cupcakes to cosmetics and cappuccinos.

More automated options are popping up now that airport food courts and restaurants, like their city counterparts, have been unable to reopen or are operating with reduced staff and operating hours due to the pandemic.

The newest on the scene is Basil Street’s automated pizza kitchen (APK), which will begin dispensing 10-inch, Italian-style, thin-crust pizza at San Antonio International Airport (SAT) on Nov. 3. The machines are also scheduled to debut at Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport (CVG), Chicago O’Hare International Airport (ORD), Pensacola International Airport (PNS) and in Houston by the end of the year.

Basil Street’s kiosks will feature three offerings: four-cheese, pepperoni and a “Pizza of the Month,” and will sell between $12.95 – $14.95. The pizzas are made with fresh ingredients and then flash-frozen and cooked-to-order in about three minutes using Basil Street’s patented three-element, non-microwave speed oven.

The automated pizza kitchens are a “perfect solution for weary, frustrated travelers who do not want to wait in long food court lines,” says Basil Street CEO Deglin Kenealy.

The kiosks are also appealing, he says, because, “U.S. consumers are becoming more demanding about having convenient, high-quality food available to them at all hours of the day.” Due to COVID, he notes, more consumers are paying attention to how their food arrives. “Fully cooked, automated food solutions provide the best of both worlds, with delicious meals that are untouched by anyone from the time a customer places their order until it arrives in their hands.”

Basil Street’s automated pizza kiosks are rolling out through a partnership with Prepango, which operates Sprinkles Cupcake and other vending machines at airports and envisions putting 200 of Basil Streets’ pizza-making machines in airports over the next 12 to 18 months.

Prepango CEO Marcos Modiano says there has been a greater use of automated vending at airports due to limited operating hours of concessions, especially in food and beverage. Recently, the company started rolling out illy’s premium automated coffee units at airports. “Coffee lines are especially long these days, so our units have definitely been alleviating some of that congestion and providing coffee service where there is none available,” says Modiano.

John Glenn Columbus International Airport (CMH) in Ohio was the first to get the illy machine, which Prepango says is illy’s first vending unit of its kind in the U.S.

More automated retail at airports

As they return to airports for personal, business and holiday travel, passengers will encounter more vending options for food and drinks and for gifts as well.

SouveNEAR sells locally made, artistic souvenirs from multiple vending machines at airports in Oakland (OAK), Sacramento (SMF), Kansas City (MCI), Las Vegas (LAS) New Jersey (EWR) and Ohio/Kentucky (CVG).

In March, Hudson, a mainstay in many airports in North America introduced what it called a “first-of-a-kind, multi-brand automated retail concept,” that is, essentially, clusters of branded vending machines.

“Travelers will find the ADA-compliant machines clustered together in groups of two or more in freestanding locations throughout the concourse or in some instances, built directly into the Hudson storefront for ultimate convenience,” the company said in a press release. “Next to the machines, easy-to-use interactive touchscreens sealed with an anti-microbial shield will showcase merchandise images and extensive product information.”

Hudson says these retail vending pods, are “…reminiscent of a miniature shopping mall within the confines of the airport retail space,” and offer globally recognized brands as well as emerging and local brands. Myrtle Beach International Airport (MYR) was the first to get Hudson’s automated retail and the concept should be in Chicago Midway International Airport (MDW) and Norman Y. Mineta San Jose International Airport (SJC) by now.

Featured image by Getty Images

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