COVID-19 has been a global presence for almost a half-year now, and health experts recommend that people practice social distancing and remain six feet apart.
But businesses still need to sell goods, and customers need to feel safe while they’re shopping. Several start-ups have tackled the issue by removing person-to-person contact with vending machines.
Eater reports that in hospitals, vending machines stocked with fresh foods have helped keep loved ones visiting patients and staff alike fed, replacing old vending machines that were previously filled with junk food.
Entrepreneurs have also found that vending machines are a convenient, contact-less way to distribute personal protective equipment to people in need. In April, France rolled out vending machines that sell PPE, including hand sanitizer, latex gloves, and masks, according to NBC Boston.
In the United States, New York followed suit with vending machines stocked with KN95 masks sold by retailer RapidMasks2Go, according to Timeout.
Airports are also beginning to add PPE vending machines. Marketwatch reports that McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas added machines stocked with gloves, masks, hand sanitizer, and alcohol wipes in two terminals.
Some local business owners who sell food in spaces that typically require person-to-person contact have gotten creative during the pandemic. USA Today reports that McCann’s Local Meats in Rochester, New York reopened its doors on June 1 and introduced its customers to a new invention: a refrigerated vending machine.
The vending machine is stocked with fresh cuts of meat—including steak, hamburgers, sausage, and chicken—as well as the shop’s prepared foods, including potato salad, macaroni and cheese, and baked beans. USA Today said the store got the idea from Applestone Meat Co., which has two meat vending machines.
As the pandemic shows no signs of disappearing any time soon, shoppers could expect to see more essential goods sold in contactless ways.