Would you buy meat from a machine?
Parisians can get their beloved baguette 24 hours a day. So it seems only logical that they can now get the Bayonne ham and Basque pate that goes so well with the bread. It comes from the first meat vending machine installed in the French capital.
Paris is filled with small shops. Long lunches remain a big part of the French "art de vivre." So the gleaming red machine set up on the lively Rue de Charonne in eastern Paris seems a bit strange.
The area has at least two dozen butcher's shops. It has no shortage of meat. But that didn't stop the owners of one of those shops, Florence and Michel Pouzol of "L'ami Txulette," from investing 40,000 euros ($45,000) to set up their project. They sell vacuum-packed meat from the refrigerated machine.
"We're closed two days: Sundays and Mondays," Florence Pouzol told The Associated Press. "So this is to cater for customers over the weekend. The idea was also to serve people after the shop's closing hours. We close at 8 p.m. But some people leave work very late and find the shop closed when they walk past it."
L'ami Txulette specializes in products from the Basque Country. Their machine takes cash or credit cards. Customers can also get a large choice of traditional delicatessen. This includes duck confit and beef carpaccio. There are also faux-filet steaks on display. They are priced at 34 euros per kilogram. On average, the products are 20 euro cents more expensive than those sold inside the shop.
A majority of shops remain closed on Sundays in France. But the Pouzols are sure that France is changing fast and so are their customers' habits.
"Our customers are young. There are also quite a few bars and restaurants along the boulevard," Florence Pouzol said. "When we see them during the day. They tell us: "Last night, I bought this, or that, and it was really helpful." We also have those who work in the cafes and restaurants and who come off work at 2 a.m. They tell us they were happy to buy an entrecote or something else to eat."
But not all residents, especially the older ones, seem ready for this change. They are not likely to stop running errands at their favorite shop and switch to the meat dispenser.
"I'm so happy that I can actually go to the butcher's shop now that I'm retired and go there in person", said local resident Lydie Aparacio. "I think that it can be useful for people who are busier than a retiree. I don't use it because I have time."
Baguette dispensers have been enjoying a large success across France over the past five years. But the meat vending machines business remains in in the early stage in France. The first machine of this type was installed three years ago. It was installed in the small western town of Garat. A butcher set it up outside a bar.
According to the bar owner, it adds extra comfort in an area lacking services.
"We don't have a butcher's shop in town. The first one is located three kilometers (two miles) away," Jo Ferreira told the AP in a phone interview. "When you finish work at 7 p.m., it's very convenient to have this machine available. I love their minced burger steaks."
The central medieval town of Mennetou-sur-Cher is popular with tourists. Pascal Bidron has installed a machine there to sell his locally made andouillette. That is a sausage prepared with pig's intestines.
He bought a second-hand machine. He put it next to his shop. His shop is closed for more than three hours during the daytime.
"I have customers coming from afar to buy my andouillettes. I wanted to serve them even when the shop is closed" Bidron told the AP. "I recently went away for two weeks and managed to sell 250 andouillettes during my vacation thanks to that machine. It's more than I expected."