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ATM satisfies customer ‘kneads’

By Claes Bell ·
Thursday, December 22, 2011
Posted: 2 pm ET

It may look like an ATM, but a new machine catching on in Paris dispenses freshly baked baguettes instead of money. From Kim Willsher at The Guardian:

But now one entrepreneurial baker has come up with an idea that sounds as sacrilegious as putting Dom Pérignon in wine boxes: selling baguettes in a vending machine.

Jean-Louis Hecht has taken advantage of the August holiday period, when many of France's 33,000 boulangers shut up shop, to install Paris's first 24-hour automated baguette dispenser.

So far Hecht has only installed two machines, one next to his baker's shop in Paris's 19th arrondissement and a second in the north-eastern town of Hombourg-Haut, close to the German border, where he also has a shop.

The baguettes are partially cooked before they are put in the machine, then finished off when ordered and delivered crisp and steaming for €1 each.

Apparently, Hecht sees a parallel between the bakers of today and the banking business a few years ago:

"It's like with banks: before, everyone went to a teller; now, everyone uses cash dispensers. It will be the same with bread: today, everyone goes to the bakery; tomorrow, they'll go to the baguette dispenser," he said.

I think Hecht's analogy is pretty apropos. Like bread for Parisian bakeries, the most important functions of a retail bank -- taking deposits, dispensing cash and checking balances -- are performed pretty well by a machine. But just as Hecht's machine probably won't ever be able to spit out a perfectly baked quiche Lorraine anytime soon, banks will probably never fully replace human tellers with automatic ones.

What specialized "ATM" would you like to see catch on in the U.S.? My vote is a fresh pasta ATM.

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