Ice cream is typically scooped or dispensed by hand, but a startup named iCream has a sweet concept: a self-service vending machine for ice cream and frozen yogurt.
iCream co-founder Matevos Keleshian says it took him and his business partner seven years to get the tech just right.
“You can get your ice cream in 30 seconds right in front of your eyes,” Keleshian told me at his Tarzana area warehouse.
Right now, iCream machines are in 10 locations throughout Southern California, mostly at malls.
Two more units are going into the Ontario International Airport and if all goes well, the company could expand to dozens of other airports nationally with hundreds of units.
The machines have twelve times the revenue of your typical vending machine.
iCream’s founders told me sales took off when the company signed a deal to offer Pinkberry frozen yogurt.
I tried out one of the eye-catching machines at Westfield Topanga.
You order on a touch screen, which gives you several options for dry and liquid toppings. I went with sprinkles and chocolate sauce.
First, a cup makes its way under the dispenser, then soft serve (in this case, Pinkberry) is expertly swirled into the cup. Finally, it slides over for sauce and any toppings.
Once a sliding door opens, you can retrieve your treat. There’s even a folded-up spoon tucked under the cup.
The taste: perfectly Pinkberry, minus any fresh fruit toppings.
But with all this automation, it begs the question: are these self-service machines taking away jobs?
Keleshian says no.
“We are making more jobs. For people like me they are going to be able to have more opportunities to build their own businesses.”
iCream tells me that the machines are cleaned and serviced daily and they’re working on dispensing acai next.