'Cafe' full of vending machines opens at Ang Mo Kio MRT station

A member of the public purchasing Hainanese chicken chop with rice from Chef-in-Box on June 13, 2017.ST VIDEO: KEVIN LIM
Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Trade and Industry Low Yen Ling ordering fried carrot cake from a VendCafe machine.ST VIDEO: TIFFANY FUMIKO TAY
The VendCafe at Ang Mo Kio MRT Station offers hot meals, beverages and snacks for under $6, and is open from 7am to 11pm daily.
The VendCafe at Ang Mo Kio MRT Station offers hot meals, beverages and snacks for under $6, and is open from 7am to 11pm daily.ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM
Customers may opt to eat the food at standing dining tables next to the vending machine.
Customers may opt to eat the food at standing dining tables next to the vending machine.ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM
The Chef-in-Box VendCafe serves up to over 90 food and beverage options.
The Chef-in-Box VendCafe serves up to over 90 food and beverage options.ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

SINGAPORE - Commuters passing through Ang Mo Kio MRT station will have more grab-and-go food options, with the launch of a vending machine "cafe" on Tuesday (June 13) that offers hot meals, beverages and snacks for under $6.

The Chef-in-Box VendCafe is a ground floor retail space with five vending machines which serve up over 90 food and beverage options.

It is the first of its kind at an MRT station with another such space opening at Lakeside MRT next week. Both will open from 7am to 11pm daily.

Operator JR Vending opened its first VendCafe at the void deck of Block 320C Anchorvale Drive in Sengkang last August, with a roster of 30 meals such as seafood hor fun that can be purchased frozen or dispensed hot. Customers may opt to eat the food at standing dining tables next to the vending machine.

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After opening the first VendCafe, JR Vending found that some customers did not like the three-minute wait to heat up frozen food. As a result, there are additional machines stocked with chilled rather than frozen food so that hot meals are dispensed under 30 seconds, said JR Group's chief executive Jocelyn Chng.

 
 
 

The meals, which are cooked and packaged daily at a central kitchen, will be replenished twice a day by a staff member.

The MRT VendCafes, which serve new menu items such as fried carrot cake and Spanish paella, accept contactless payment cards including transit cards.

To celebrate the launch, 1,000 Chef-in-Box VendCafe Nets FlashPay cards containing $1 will be given out at the Ang Mo Kio MRT station between Tuesday and Saturday.

Ms Chng said that sales at the VendCafe in Sengkang have dropped from about 500 to 600 meals a day after the launch, to stabilise at around 250.

The company is in talks to bring VendCafe's manpower-lean model to other countries such as Korea, while more VendCafes will also be launched at housing board estates in Rivervale and Pasir Ris by early next month, she said.

Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Trade and Industry Low Yen Ling told reporters at the launch that the VendCafe format helps to address manpower and productivity challenges in the food services sector, delivering the same amount of meals with 30 to 90 per cent fewer workers.

Civil servant Jenny Lee, 46, who was queueing to try a meal at VendCafe on Tuesday, said: "I want to see how good the food is. If it's not bad then I will buy it next time on the way home from work since it's convenient."