▋It’s a cliché but it’s true—the French love their bread, whether it’s hot from the oven or hot from a vending machine.
A prize-winning baguette dispenser invented by French baker Jean-Louis Hecht not only offers hungry customers hot loaves at any time of the day or night but is bringing in the dough for fellow bakers who have invested in the machine.
Hecht, 57, who won the latest edition of the French Concours Lepine, an annual competition for unique inventions, said the idea of the “Pani Vending” machine came from his desire to spend the evenings with his family instead of being disturbed by eager customers asking for fresh bread at odd hours of the day, sometimes even when the bakery was closed.
“The purpose of this machine, the Pani Vending, is to ease the work of the salesperson and the baker because the bread that the baker puts in the Pani Vending machine, he will take it out ten minutes before the end of the baking, he will then have a pre-cooked product, and then it’s the machine that will complete the cooking, the distribution and the sale,” Hecht said.
The process is simple: you feed in one euro, the machine then bakes a pre-cooked loaf and dispenses a hot baguette 30 seconds later.
Hecht has already installed 20 machines in France and 4 in Russia. He said he hopes to sell thousands of machines throughout the world in the coming years.
Vouching for the quality of the dispenser-made bread, Trix Ninot, a flight attendant from the Netherlands said the machine had made her life much easier than before.
“In the beginning when we saw the machine it was a little bit strange because we were not used to it over here to see a machine. We want to go into the bakery to buy the bread. But the bread is very very good so when the bakery is closed, sometimes we take bread in the machine,” she said.
“But when it’s open, we go inside because you’ve got more choice for the bread,” she added.
Salam Azouni, a local construction worker, said the dispenser meant avoiding the sometimes serpentine queues outside the bakery.
“In the evenings, we have no choice. And sometimes it’s quicker, we park, we put a coin, we take the baguette, it’s hot, it has the same taste, it’s the same thing,” he said.
Hecht said four cities out of five in France have no bakery, and that his machine could resolve the problem. And fellow baker Hocquel said it was up to traditional bakers to invest in it to stop it from falling into the clutches of the big industries.