Exclusive interview with founder & CEO of Le Bread Xpress, creator of the baguette vending machine
Le Bread Xpress, a baguette vending machine that originally was tested in France, is now up and running in the U.S. The machines currently have two locations, both in San Francisco, and they partially bake the baguettes on their own.
We were able to speak with Benoit Herve, the CEO and founder of Le Bread Xpress, about the machines.
Liz Parker: What prompted the creation of the Le Bread Xpress baguette vending machine?
Benoit Herve: It’s the story of a French baker in a small village in France, actually. He used to be bothered by customers coming after store open hours, since he was having dinner with his family, and he thought about having a machine which could serve those customers during evening, Sundays or holidays. He then realized it would be even better if the machine would also bake the bread. Him and his brother, a successful industrial manufacturer, started the development of this unique machine, and it took 4 years to develop.
My grandfather was a baker 70 years ago. After a successful career in technology, I decided to follow his footsteps and continue the family tradition, with today’s technology.
LP: How does the machine work?
BH: The machine is in fact a connected micro-bakery with a real industrial oven, and it stores, bakes and delivers bread on demand 24/7. It contains a fridge which can stores up to 120 baguettes. We load part-baked baguettes, meaning that the baguettes are made by a real baker and not a machine. The machine will finish the baking process during 10 minutes, and an operator programs a certain number of baguettes to be made available for immediate delivery.
For instance, we can program it to have 10 baguettes available at 5 p.m. The machine will bake them and hold them in a hot chamber keeping them warm. The customer orders and pays (cash, credit card, or Apple Pay) and gets the baguette in less than 30 seconds. The machine will then automatically bake another baguette to keep the quantity at 10 baguettes.
LP: How does the machine manage to deliver a high-quality baguette?
BH: First, it is an Artisan French baguette coming from a baker and not machine-made. We selected very carefully, among more than 15 suppliers, a French baker which produces an outstanding baguette with a traditional French recipe. What is unique is that the machine provides the freshest baguettes as it is baking on demand, all day long. The baguette will be freshly baked, warm and crusty.
Most baguettes in stores have been baked during the night and delivered early morning, so they will become stale by early afternoon. No more waste or empty rack. It just provides the exact quantity needed.
LP: Where are Le Bread Xpress vending machines currently located?
BH: In the U.S., we have two machines in San Francisco. They're located at 2175 Market Street at the Myriad, a covered food market, and at Stonestown Galleria, a mall, located at 3251 20th Ave. Our third machine will be in a supermarket in Silicon Valley.
LP: What will the crowdfunding initiative help accomplish?
BH: The funds raised from the crowdfunding will allow our company to grow faster. The proceeds will be used to purchase four more machines, for marketing and operation, hiring, and expansion to other states.
We are currently in negotiation with two national supermarket chains. This will drastically accelerate our growth and validate our concept.
LP: What are the long-term plans for Le Bread Xpress?
BH: In the long run, we plan to open business opportunities in other cities and states throughout the U.S. Business opportunities are like franchises—this will allow us to expand and offer our unique micro-bakery in various locations.
We expect having close to 100 machines in place by 2020. Potentially we can see more than 1000 machines in few years. Just in San Francisco and its surrounding areas, the potential is 100 machines.
We will consider bringing the manufacturing of the machines to the U.S., too, as well as opening our own bread facility.