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Ginger Conlon | April 9, 2012

Crazy or Creative?

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Remember the automat? Walls of vending machines stocked with sandwiches, snacks, and drinks; cafeteria-style dining. Popular in the early 1900s, they began to fade in the 1950s. When Horn & Hardart closed its last automat (on 42nd Street in Manhattan) in 1991, it seemed that gone were the days of getting any food but chips, crackers, and Pop Tarts from a vending machine. But in what seems to be a move to address the snacking needs of today's impatient, on-the-go customers, gourmet cupcake bakery Sprinkles has gone retro. The chain launched recently a Cupcake ATM.

cupcake-atm.jpg

According to an article on CNNMoney, Sprinkles is planning to roll out the Cupcake ATM to its 10 locations and then to other, stand-alone locations. Each machine can hold 600 cupcakes, which sell for $4 each.

After reading about Sprinkles' Cupcake ATM, I started to wonder about how well the bakery's management knows its customers and prospects. I imagine bank managers had similar thoughts when presented with the first cash ATM.

I wonder: Will customers buy $4 cupcakes from a vending machine? (I would.) Does anyone really "need" access to cupcakes 24/7? (I do.) Personally, I think the Cupcake ATM is ingenious. Will it catch on--and will we soon see vending machines for macarons, or whatever the trendy snack du jour is? Will we see Sprinkles' Cupcake ATMs in airports and at the mall? (I hope so.) Or will the cupcake-buying consumer prefer assisted service over self-service? As long as each cupcake is packaged with a napkin, Sprinkles has one future self-service customer for sure (that'd be me).

What do you think? Would you buy your next red velvet cupcake from a vending machine? Or do you prefer assistance with your cupcake purchase?

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