Thursday, March 18, 2021

Urban Chefs Moving-On-Up


Back in the day Horn and Hardart opened the first ‘Automat’ that they imported from Germany in 1902.  They did that is a booming and bustling Philadelphia, PA as consumers at the turn of the century were just like they are today, time starved. According to Steven Johnson, Grocerant Guru® at Tacoma, WA based Foodservice Solutions® they are back and once again catering to an unmet consumer need-set.

Today the ‘atomat’ looks more like a futuristic locker and they are placed in luxury apartment buildings for automat-like access to fresh meals. These are now fine-dining food lockers for apartment buildings could be the vending machine of the future.

So, chefs Ken Oringer and Jamie Bissonnette of JK Food Group have partnered with Alchemista to bring their food to customers via temperature-controlled, self-sanitizing food lockers in luxury apartment buildings throughout Boston. What we have here is a way for chefs to drive fresh food sales to its best customers.

Here is how it works customers can place orders for meals from tapas restaurant Toro and Italian small plates restaurant Coppa via the Alchemista app and then pick it up whenever they want to from the food locker in their apartment building lobby via a unique QR code.

So, right now, the service is available in 10 luxury apartment buildings in the Boston area, “with a new building launching every few days,” Alchemista founder and CEO, Christine Marcus, said. Although all of the buildings are currently in Boston, they will be rolling out to buildings in the New York City and Washington, D.C. areas “hopefully soon.”

Currenlty, Alchemista is an end-to-end amenity, with the partnering restaurant only needing to provide the food that will go in the lockers. Alchemista employees pick up between 20-40 meals at one time from Toro and Coppa (and other restaurants Alchemista might be working with in the future) and deliver them to the participating buildings for storage in the lockers, controlled at a temperature of 140 degrees for hot food (and varying cooler temperatures for temperate or cold foods).  There are two one-hour shifts during peak lunch and peak dinner hours.

The 2021 Automat / lockers are known as The Orbit. they look like small glass cubbies are outfitted with UV lights that kill 99.9% of bacteria — a feature that was in the works before COVID-19 hit but has become a popular selling point in the age of coronavirus.

Much like Amazon lockers, customers can scan the QR code with their phones to peruse the menu, pay on their mobile device, and pick up their food.

“With Jamie and Ken, we created personalized packaging for the food and we market it for them and pick up and deliver the food so all they have to do is worry about making awesome meals,” Marcus said. “Imagine you can go down to your lobby and get a meal from Toro, which may not be close to convenient to go physically. You come home from work and on your way to the elevator you scan the QR code and a door pops open with a meal that was delivered under an hour ago.”

The Alchemista lockers don’t just serve Toro tapas and pasta from Coppa. The company also has their own corporate catering team providing meals, snacks, and other amenities for people in the building, like dog treats. For example, on Valentine’s Day weekend this year, they filled the lockers with chocolates and other treats and have also done specialty stores like a popup bakery. Any leftovers from the day are donated to a charity called Rescuing Leftover Cuisine.

Alchemista began life as a B2B catering entity with the idea of feeding large corporations with cafeterias like Google. But when COVID-19 hit and most offices shut down (some permanently), Marcus had the idea of bringing their automated service to people’s residences instead.

“These lockers solve the problem of places being shut during the pandemic, they’re space efficient, and they allow us to work with restaurants like Toro that don’t typically do delivery,” Marcus said. “The fact that we can help protect the integrity of their brand and maintain food quality has allowed us to accelerate and get into different verticals we had not considered before.” Where are you selling food? You might consider this as a viable option.  

Invite Foodservice Solutions® to complete a Grocerant ScoreCard, or for product positioning or placement assistance, or call our Grocerant Guru®.  Since 1991 Foodservice Solutions® of Tacoma, WA has been the global leader in the Grocerant niche. Contact: or 253-759-7869

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