Bloop. Bloop bloop.
Listen closely. That’s the sound of touchscreen self-order kiosks — the newest attraction at Bread Garden Market on Iowa City’s Pedestrian Mall.
Bread Garden Market, called by one TripAdvisor reviewer “the closest thing Iowa City has to a Whole Foods,” is a regular destination of mine, although I’ve generally remained loyal to the grocery store’s build-your-own salad bar. A slow adopter of new technology, I ignored the kiosks, which were put into full effect about one year ago.
This was until I was recommended an ahi tuna poke bowl, Bread Garden Market’s take on a deconstructed sushi roll and one of many options available for order at the grocery’s three kiosk ordering stations.
Bread Garden Market executive chef Christian Prochaska said the idea for the kiosks came, in fact, from a visit to Whole Foods in Washington, D.C., where customers were lining up “10 people deep” to order personalized meals from kiosk stations.
“We saw that it worked out there, and we thought that we are one of the few places in town that can pull this off,” Prochaska said.
Soon after, the grocery store built an open kitchen to suit the fast-casual concept and created an ever-expanding menu for customers to peruse with the touch of a finger.
The daytime menu includes freshly ground beef burgers, pizzas, poke bowls, loaded French fries, burritos and tacos. For breakfast, the kiosks offer customizable breakfast scramble bowls, acai bowls and avocado toast. Most meals start at $5, with additions like chipotle gouda cheese, caramelized onions, bacon and pesto ranging from 50 cents to $1.
“The ingredients are always high quality,” Prochaska said. “That’s what we’ve always done. But now we can provide [them] at a lower price point.”
To order, one follows these steps:
At a kiosk, select your main entree, toppings and sides.
Print your receipt and bring it to a cashier, who will place a sticker on the receipt indicating you have payed.
Wait for your number to be called at the kitchen counter; when it’s ready, show your receipt and take your meal.
Alongside the poke bowl, which featured sushi-grade tuna and cubed avocado on a bed of seaweed salad and sticky rice, I ordered a juicy pork taco with a side of pinto beans to share — an odd combination, perhaps, but I wanted to explore the range of options modern fast-casual dining had to offer (Bread Garden Market is nothing if not a source of options). In total, the meal for two cost $17, and the food was ready in about seven minutes.
My one regret? Forgoing the burger and fries, which, according to Prochaska, outsells every other kiosk item two to one.