Bacon vending machines are so 2018.
The new year at Ohio State University brings new classes, new goals and new dreams. And in Morrill Hall, it brings the stuff that dreams are made of: a brand new pizza ATM.
Ohio State unveiled the new machine on the second floor of the west campus residence hall when students returned to campus last week.
“I thought it was a really cool idea,” freshman Zach Pryfogle said Tuesday as he used the machine for the first time. Though he lives on North Campus, he made a special lunchtime trip to Morrill Hall to try the pizza after hearing about it from fellow student Lexi Morton.
“I didn’t know how it was going to work, but then seeing how it makes it just inside ... just pushes it out just like cash at an ATM, I think it’s really cool,” said Pryfogle, a 19-year-old engineering major from Westerville.
Students start by selecting either a cheese or pepperoni pie, each priced at about $8, using a large touch screen on the machine and confirming their order. Four minutes and 11 seconds later, their order slowly emerges from the machine’s slot, just like cash from an ATM.
Behind a wall on the other side of the machine, a refrigerator holds up to 70 10-inch pizzas, each pre-made, pre-sliced, and pre-boxed, said Abby Hertzfeld, associate director of operations for University Dining Services. When a student orders a pizza, the machine selects the appropriate boxed pie, lifts the lid and inserts the pizza into a convection oven to cook for about three minutes.
The machine uses special proprietary boxes, enabling the pizza to go into the oven while it’s still in the box, with the lid lifted. The pizzas are made and stocked fresh each day by Ohio State Dining Services staffers, Hertzfeld said.
Students can later choose to add drinks or a side dish from a nearby counter and check out using a separate touch-screen system.
The machine cost Ohio State about $60,000, which the university expects to recoup in profits in two to three years, said Stephanie Lingofelter with Ohio State’s Office of Student Life.
“It’s gotten a lot of positive feedback,″ said Trinity Boston, a student cook and 19-year-old chemistry major from New Waterford. “We always have a line in here.”
The machine, sold by Cincinnati-based Pizza ATM LLC, is one of just three operating in the United States, all of them in the Buckeye State. The others are at Xavier University in Cincinnati and Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland. There also is a machine at the University of Turabo in Puerto Rico, and about 500 machines are operating in France.
Currently, the pizza machine is available from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. for students with a meal plan. But University Dining Services hopes to extend the hours, with the eventual goal of serving students 24 hours a day.
Specialty pizzas will be added, Hertzfeld said. Dining Services staffers are considering a breakfast pizza or other favorites such as buffalo chicken, barbeque chicken and supreme.