Rise Of The Machines

Self-service convenience in Singapore now comes in many new forms, with more food, gadgets, gifts and entertainment available.

By Balvinder Sandhu      5 October 2018

Gone are the days when snacks and drinks were the only things you could get from vending machines. Quietly, self-service convenience has evolved rapidly in recent years. Hot sandwiches and fresh fruit juices being dispensed from machines are old news. Today, you can look for machines to get a wide variety of hot food, including gourmet meals usually served at restaurants, and a surprisingly diverse number of non-food items. This means that you can buy more things 24/7 at your own convenience, without having to wait for a staff member to serve you during typical business hours. One day, these machines could perhaps serve you with a smile and wish you a good day, or night, too.

Food, lots of food

We are without a doubt a food-loving nation. Despite having access to food at all hours, at all kinds of eateries or via home delivery services, food vending machines have gained in popularity too. What types of grub can you get from such machines? Salads, pizzas and other hot food (like curry chicken, bolognese and hor fun), and even chilli crab – from the aptly named Ready-to-Eat Crab vending machines – seem to be here to stay! There are even “cafes”with full menus that have popped up as fully self-serve makan places. For example #PlayatJCube The Corner is home to about 20 vending machines that sell hot meals from Chef-In-Box, as well as clothes and other knick-knacks.

Books and gifts

Local bookstore Books Actually makes it convenient for us to enjoy books at our leisure. With vending machines located at several locations such as the National Museum, it’s a must-try for book lovers, especially those with a passion for local literature. If you remember shopping for greeting cards and gifts at Kalms in the past, you’ll feel a bit nostalgic when you see the brand’s vending machines at multiple locations across Singapore. The next time you need to mark a special occasion, you can buy your loved ones items ranging from soft toys and simple jewellery to drinks and snacks.

Coconuts, Karaoke and almost everything else

Always had ambitions of becoming a pop star but never had the courage to actually record a demo? Step into one of the many karaoke vending machines by M-Bar, located at several malls, and sing your heart out. When you get a craving for fresh coconut juice but don’t want to trudge your way to a hawker centre, look for a vending machine by KoolCoCo – instead of just packs of coconut water, you can buy whole, chilled coconuts! Meanwhile, supermarket chain Giant has a cluster of vending machines – known as “VendMart” – at its Tampines and IMM hypermarts, selling items such as flowers, gardening kits, perfume, paint, fish food, feminine hygiene and men’s grooming products. If you’re feeling adventurous, there’s also a “mystery box” machine, whereby you can win a prize such as a new mobile phone. Other products you can now buy from machines include beauty products such as nail polish, hardware, IT supplies and health supplements. You can also “buy” laundry services at select laundromat machines offering dry cleaning, wash and press, and iron-only services.

Got a flight to catch?

Even Changi Airport has gotten in on the action, with a number of vending machines offering popiah, snacks and finger food, for when regular food outlets have closed. There’s a karaoke machine as well, if you feel the urge to break into song after having eaten your fill of self-service meals.


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