BreakTime Solutions is a Belgian corporation that's all about (as the name implies) finding solutions to marketing quandaries. And what's the latest consumer problem it's solved? Building something that will shoot hot french fries and globs of mayonnaise into one's eager hands during a drunken, late-night eating binge, to judge by the company's "Corner Chips" vending machine.
The unusual dispensary sits outside the sliding glass doors of a Brussels supermarket. The way it works is first you give up your week's diet plans, then drop in €2.50 and select a condiment, like lipid-hued mayo or ketchup. The machine does the rest, dropping frozen frites into steaming beef fat and dumping them into a paper satchel for the customer's eager retrieval. A tiny fork and foil packet of sauce comes wrapped up in a nice little box, like a birthday present for the seriously depressed.
The entire process takes 95 seconds. But don't let the ease with which this machine slings french fries trick you into thinking it was a piece of cake to build. "Corner Chips" includes a number of inventive and high-tech doohickeys, like a system for trapping odors (although why would they want to do that?) and a remote-management link that tells its operator when it's almost out of potatoes. There's even a "protection" cage surrounding the robo-cooker, in case it has a run-in with a really hungry but penniless patron or a member of a mayonnaise-hating society:
The international press has hailed this McDonald's-in-a-box as history's very first french-fry vending machine. Given humanity's insatiable appetite for deep-fried badness, of course that's not true. Australia has a version called FoodCube that dish up fries in two minutes (and includes a napkin). Salt Lake City's major airport has another that also serves chicken strips and Tombstone pizza, because nothing beats the combo of sitting in a lounge for hours while munching oily snacks. And look at this delighted couple who found one in the Israeli holy city of Tsfat:
The Brussels vending machine is just one more example of the slow but inexorable spread of this waist-destroying device. It's happening as I write these words. BreakTime's website has a comments section; the last thing posted yesterday was from a "Diego" who said, "Hello, We would like to be your distributor in Spain and Turkey. Please get in touch asap. Thanks."