In the newest chapter of fast food franchises stepping into the future, Subway’s new grab-and-go smart fridge tech has rolled out on a college campus in California this fall. Customers can grab sandwiches as they wish from the fridge, which is also listening to what you’re saying as you’re using it.
This past September, the Subway smart fridge was placed on the campus of the University of California San Diego and was stocked with grab-and-go options like pre-made sandwiches and prepackaged chips and soda. The company stated in a press release yesterday that reception to the fridge has been “extremely positive” from college students who can pick up a sandwich whenever they want. In addition to the weight-sensitive shelves that tell the fridge what to charge you and the UV-C light that sanitizes the machine after each use, the fridge is also equipped with artificial intelligence and language recognition software.
“Subway Grab & Go has quickly gained traction as consumers are drawn to sandwiches made fresh daily from a brand they know and love, versus competitor items that rely on a 14-day plus shelf life,” said Karla Martinez, director of innovation for non-traditional development. “As Subway continues to expand off-premises concepts, guests can expect to find Subway Grab & Go and smart fridges in more convenient everyday places like airports, college campuses, and hospitals.”
Cool concept, bizarre execution. The AI and speech recognition feature on the fridge is supposed to allow customers to ask the machine about the offerings that lie within. But as you may know, that’s almost never the entire story, and we don’t exactly know when/if the microphone switches off or on, what else the AI is capable of, or what Subway is doing with any recordings they may be collecting. Subway didn’t immediately return our request for comment on those questions.
The Gizmodo staff couldn’t help but wonder what questions we could ask the Subway smart fridge:
- Can you feel?
- What’s actually in your tuna salad?
- What is the difference between your bread and a yoga mat?
- Can you tell me the knife-to-meat ratio in these sandwiches?
- When are the $5 foot longs coming back?
Subway began piloting a grab-and-go platform in 2020. Subway sandwich artists would prepare Subway offerings each day and then distribute them to grab-and-go spots at places like casinos and airports. That grab-and-go format, called Subway Grand & Go, formed the basis of the smart fridge.