Ever woken up at 3:00 in the morning with an insatiable craving for a piping hot French baguette? No, that’s just us? Well, whether you see French bread in your dreams or in visions as you stumble out of the bar after last call, the tragedy is these kinds of tasty things are pretty hard to come by at odd hours after bakeries have closed up shop. But no more (in Paris, anyway) – one baker has taken matters into his own hands with a vending machine that doles out soft and crusty delights 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
This week Baker Jean-Louis Hecht launched the revolutionary 24-hour automated baguette dispenser. This is a big deal, especially in France where the baguette is a staple of everyday eating. Hecht and his wife came up with the idea ten years ago, after being constantly woken up in the middle of the night by customers searching for bread before opening hours. The automated dispenser could not only eliminate the bother, but could revolutionize the centuries-old, crack-of-dawn baker lifestyle.
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"This is the bakery of tomorrow," Hecht told reporters of the Associated Press. "If other bakers don't want to enter the niche, they're going to get decimated." Not only are the machines easy to use for consumers, they’re also highly cost-effective for bakers. Hecht rolled out his first automated baguette dispenser in January, in his hometown of Hombourg-Haut in northeastern France. The machine, which cost Hecht 50,000 euro, sold 1,600 baguettes within its first month and was up to 4,500 by July. Within a year, it will have paid for itself.
While some baguette purists remain skeptical, Hecht is already predicting the spread of his vending machines throughout Paris, across Europe, and even into the United States (our fingers are crossed). "It's like with banks,” he explained to reporters. “Before, everyone went to a teller; now, everybody uses ATMs. It will be the same with bread: Today, everybody goes to the bakery. Tomorrow they'll go to the baguette dispenser."