By Rayna Katz
If you’ve ever attended a meeting or event at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center and jumped on the snake-of-a-line at the Starbucks on the top floor, while worrying about missing an education session—this one is for you. The mega-meeting facility has added a touch-less cafe that brings the term ‘grab and go’ to a new level.
Called Fresh and Fast, the establishment is check-out free. Customers swipe their credit card to enter through a turnstile, take the food they want and walk through another turnstile to exit. Only the food that one leaves with is charged; so if you pick up a fruit salad and decide that you’re feeling M&Ms more, once you put the fruit salad back on the shelf, you won’t be charged for it.
Fresh and Fast is the first cashier-less, user-controlled food and beverage outlet at a convention center nationwide, and it features lunch items like sandwiches as well as grain bowls, snacks and sodas of course, and even booze, such as beer and hard seltzers. (Javits officials will make sure no one underaged is served by having security officials present, as well as an attendant who also can answer questions about how to use the space.)
And while this likely would come as a shock to many a convention-goer, the use of the word fresh here is accurate. As part of a major recent expansion at the Javits Center—where a 54,000-square-foot special event venue called The Pavillion was added, as well as more space for meetings and conventions—a one-acre farm was created on the roof, from which the facility will generate about 40,000 pounds of produce annually that will be used in-house, vice president of guest experience Mariam Karim told NewsBreak.
“The food is prepared in-house and guests will see that it’s fresh—the veggies are bright, crisp and beautiful,” she said. The new establishment is part of a broader effort to make the whole experience of the Javits Center more appealing.
“Ultimately we wanted to enhance the guest experience in all areas of the building," Karim said. The expansion was a pivotal piece of that effort. “It’s more dynamic, the River Pavilion has a deck with a gorgeous view of the Hudson River.”
Developed in conjunction with Javits partners Levy and CxRA, Fresh and Fast is on level two of the Center (one level down from the entrance) and takes over for a coffee-cart and sandwich stand that were on the site. Due to COVID-19 precautions, seating around the space currently is limited, but that will change in the future, Karim said.
And judging by the reception that Fresh and Fast received during its debut during NY NOW, a wholesale market that was held August 8 to 11, guests were pleased with the offering, even if the food had to be taken to go. “There was a lot of curiosity around it,” Karam said. “I haven’t seen that volume of activity in that area before.”
But the point of Fresh and Fast is to "provide a greater set of options when guests are on-site," she added. "Although this cafe has a self-checkout option, we always intended for our staff members to maintain a presence and assist customers. The technology certainly improves the experience, but the human element is critical to its success."
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