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Taylor Hall welcomes new hot food vending machine

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Taylor Hall, also known as Rams Village 4, sits on South Campus behind the First Year dorm, Hinton James.

On March 18, Carolina Housing announced the newest addition to Taylor Residence Hall: the Just Baked Smart Bistro vending machine.

Just Baked provides small meals and snack items around the clock, but it is not just an ordinary vending machine — the kiosk also has freezer and heating capabilities. The kiosk offers options such as small burger sliders, potstickers, soup dumplings, cinnamon rolls and molten lava cakes.

The kiosk has a touch screen that allows users to order what the machine has in stock. Users pay via card, touch-to-pay or the Just Baked app to order and watch the machine provide a one-minute countdown until their food is ready.

Sara Anderson, a junior resident of Taylor Hall, spoke about her first experience using the kiosk. She said that it was approximately $7 for six potstickers. The kiosk counted down the 60 seconds and then a metal door opened, pushing out cooked and warm potstickers.

“The food was actually pretty good,” Anderson said. “I thought it would just taste like microwave food, but the potstickers were actually steamed.”

Other residents also said they believe the vending machine is an exciting addition to Taylor Hall and, hopefully, other buildings across UNC’s campus because it allows students to easily access warm food rather than the snacks and candy found in typical vending machines. Resident Franklin "Henry" Thurman II said that in Taylor, the vending machines often run out of materials.

“If it does well in Taylor Hall, it’ll probably be in every other hall,” he said

The vending machine is also especially appealing to those living in dorms without around-the-clock access to hot food or their dining hall because it offers a cheaper alternative to ordering food, eating out or on-campus dining services. Some of the food options offered by Just Baked are not often, if ever, found in UNC's dining halls, providing comfort foods that these sources may not provide.

Anderson added that she enjoys being able to grab something warm to eat right in the lobby if the dining halls are not open or if she's studying late at night.

“Having the sweet and hot options and being able to have it in a machine that gives you hot food intrigued me,” she said. 

Though happy that Carolina Dining Services chose Taylor Hall as the pilot location, Anderson said she was interested in CDS’s decision to place the machine in a residence hall rather than a place accessible by more students, such as Davis Library.

In an email statement to The Daily Tar Heel, Christen Flowers, director of dining and auxiliary services, said CDS was exploring options on South Campus but did not directly explain why CDS chose Taylor Hall instead of a more high-traffic area.

Flowers also said that they are eager to explore more innovative solutions like Just Baked across campus if the pilot does well.

“Overall, we want to see how we can use innovative unattended retail and hospitality solutions to better meet the needs of our students and campus community,” she said.

@sofiaszostczuk

@dailytarheel | university@dailytarheel.com

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