The coolest vending machine in Silicon Valley dispenses…bowls of hot ramen?

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The coolest vending machine in Silicon Valley dispenses…bowls of hot ramen?

In that sense, the Yo-Kai ramen machine is riding a growing wave of companies that are applying automation to other popular dishes, although not necessarily to be sold out of a vending machine. For example, San Francisco-based Momentum Machines has produced an automatic cheeseburger maker that can churn out 360 sandwiches per hour. A recent National Restaurant Association show featured bots designed to produce sushi, french fries and salads. In Mountain View, Zume Pizza has an assembly line of robots aspiring to make a margherita pie as well as a human chef.

Like Yo-Kai, these companies are convinced that labor demands will require the food industry to adopt automation. Lin is secretive about exactly how his machine works, declining to let a reporter take a peek inside. Most ingredients are prepared off-site and flash frozen, he said. When a customer makes an order, the machine quickly heats up the broth and cooks the rest of the meal.

Yo-Kai operates by charging companies $250 a month to maintain a ramen machine on site, and also keeps the revenues from its food sales. Lin’s company has been financed primarily by friends and family, but he expects it will soon begin taking in formal venture capital. Eyeing the future, he said he expected to someday have self-driving ramen food trucks and artificial intelligence algorithms to predict demand patterns.

“We’re not a restaurant company, we’re more of an internet of things company,” he said.

Just a few blocks from the Pure Storage headquarters and its Yo-Kai ramen-maker, the traditional sit-down noodle shop Ramen Izakaya Yu-Gen was preparing for the dinner rush. Owner Kotaro Komori said he had heard about the new ramen vending machine, but he still didn’t have a chance to try it out.

He had plenty of questions: How did they avoid overcooking their noodles? Did every bowl taste exactly the same?

But his biggest question was what the big appeal is for customers. If it’s a matter of convenience, his restaurant can make a bowl of ramen in two minutes, he said.

“(I thought that) customers attach special importance to the ambiance of a restaurant,” he said. “If a customer just wants to eat a quick ramen bowl, there’s some good Cup Noodles at the Japanese stores.”


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The coolest vending machine in Silicon Valley dispenses…bowls of hot ramen?

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