The first pilot vending machine cafe operated by JR Vending was launched on Sunday (7 August), at Block 320C Anchorvale Drive, Sengkang.
Anchorvale's VendCafe, operated by JR Vending, is a cluster of six vending machines accompanied by stand-up dining tables.
At such machines, the menu will displayed on a touchscreen and costumers can select the dishes they desire. The customers can pay by cash, Nets FlashPay or credit cards. The food and cutlery will come out of the machine in about 90 seconds to three minutes. The machine is expected to be able to serve 60 to 120 customers per hour and meals are priced between $3.50 and $5.
Member of Parliament (Sengkang West) Lam Pin Min said at the launch ceremony that Anchorvale was an ideal location for the VendCafe pilot due to the lack of amenities such as eating houses. And also the fact that the area is too built-up to cater for space to allow new eating houses, which might bring the question of why Housing Development Board (HDB) did not consider the availability of such amenities for the residents during the development phase.
Mr Lam said that, "The site of the VendCafe is very important, and it should not be too near to any eating houses because there’ll be direct competition.”
According to the survey conducted in March by Sengkang West Zone "B" Residents Committee and JR Vending, 92 percent of the surveyed household agreed to have such machines to be installed in the area. It is unknown how the survey was conducted and the sample size of the survey.
The other main reason that the machine was provided is the fact that the country has an issue of manpower shortage.
"The F&B sector takes up almost five per cent of our total workforce. It's still growing as a sector but you can't keep growing manpower, and in particular we can't keep growing foreign manpower. So we have to find ways of using technology but without compromising consumer's desire for taste, for health, for nutrition, and for convenience,” Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam said at the launch.
He also emphasized that the machine should not threaten the country's local heritage, “I think we should never do away with our hawker centres, because there you have individual hawkers, proprietors with their own special touch and their own special recipes.”
"Here, we're starting off on a smaller basis, but people are already used to this in hospitals, in tertiary campuses. And you have to just make it more present in our neighbourhood, so people know it's there and it's just part of the daily routine," he added saying that the mindset of people needs some time to be changed.
The Standards, Productivity and Innovation Board (SPRING) is working with the Housing Development Board (HDB) to review tender of the providing machines. The SPRING's director (Food) Tong Shuh Lan said, “This might be in the area of R&D, such as extending the product’s shelf life, improving the nutrition and taste of the product, (and) also in terms of the process like workflow design and investing in equipment so they can incorporate the vending machine as part of their distribution channel.”