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When a swallow makes summer—Meals with a twist by Fruccola Bird

The past months have highlighted the importance of healthy eating even more, but the lack of time and energy often poses too big an obstacle. Luckily there are innovators who do not only think of today but also tomorrow: the vending machines of Fruccola Bird will soon offer the nourishing, colorful dishes rich in flavors and textures in many spots across the country, exactly the way they do in the restaurants.

Written by Bianka Geiger

Let’s be honest: eating well is not always easy. I am a big supporter of cooking whenever we can, but it’s true that we don’t always have the time or capacity for it, yet eating a hot meal heals not only our body, but also our soul. Now that we can’t just swing by any restaurant for lunch, we’re stuck with dishes we can grab while on the go, but these often fail at some point: either we must go and pick them up and so the content of the boxes goes cold by the time we get back, or gets meshed together while carrying it, or, if worst comes to worst, the food is full of additives and preservatives to ensure a longer best before date. It’s ironic, but the current situation is quite similar to that in the times before the gastronomic revolution around the mid-2000s—today it is hard to imagine it, but at the time, Hungarians had no idea what brunch meant, thought of risotto as an inexplicable dish and looked oddly at anyone who wanted to open a breakfast place or a restaurant offering healthy dishes. 

This is the environment Fruccola was born into back in the day. The founder, Petra Saás has come a very long way—she was raised in a family of restaurateurs: her parents ran a classic family restaurant in District XVI of Budapest. Seeing the stressful life of his father, she was more than sure that she didn’t want to work in the hospitality sector. She’d always been drawn to creation, so she became a leaded glass maker, but the impacts of the crisis on the construction industry also affected her line of work, so she needed a plan B. First, she wanted to open a juice bar, but it didn’t seem like a viable idea, so she turned to another passion of hers—to tasty and healthy breakfasts and lunch menus.

The first Fruccola opened in 2007 in Arany János utca, Budapest—despite the initial critical voices, Petra kept going: she unwaveringly brewed the coffees, baked the waffles, prepared the salads and held fish Fridays every week (initially mixing with chicken, because people were distrustful of fish dishes). The business became more and more popular, and on top, she managed to “win over” one of the regulars, Péter Tausz, too, so much so that they ended up marrying a little later. They opened the unit at Kristóf tér together—the epidemic hit this one the hardest, as with the vanishing of tourists, turnover dropped, so they had to shut it down—then after a 2-year detour in Berlin, followed the unit in MOM Park, which became a regular spot for many residents of District XII.

They were invited to open smaller restaurants on the ground floors of office buildings on several occasions, but they knew that it would have been too much besides running so many units in parallel. This is how the idea of making the dishes accessible anytime came. They started brainstorming about the project three years ago—when the epidemic and the restrictions were years away—because they thought it was important that people can access good meals easily and quickly. But what is a “good dish” like? What Petra has been striving for since the very beginning, initially behind the counter: nourishing, seasonal and simple, yet rich and diverse (and adjustable to different diets and food intolerances) and, last but not least, aesthetic. Luckily, there are more and more options today—provided you are allowed to sit in restaurants. This is, however, not always viable, especially now, so people have to make some compromises. Thus, the idea of food vending machines and, with it, Fruccola Bird was born (alluding to the little birds who keep popping up in various parts of the city – the Ed.).

The team consisting of a dynamic balance of 30-40 different experts (chefs, food engineers, developers, graphic designers and other specialists) developed an innovative solution: they figured out dishes that are suitable for vacuum packaging in a safe test kitchen, then they preserved them with this method as served by the chef. The vacuum packaged trays can be heated in a microwave, which comes quite in handy in offices, universities and hospitals—places where the vending machines are planned to be installed in the spring. When heated, the steam of the dish makes the foil rise, thus refreshing the moisture and the flavors of the dish: all we have to do is enjoy it.

With their application, we can also pre-order the meals: the platform is easy to use, colorful and informative, with lots of photos. Each dish can be stored for 3 to 5 days—the soups, salads and desserts come in hermetically sealed jars, which we can also redeem later. Users can also set their preferences: may it be gluten-free or vegan courses, Fruccola Bird has it all. The dishes are not only great for a work lunch, they are also perfect for stocking up for the entire family: the soups of SupKids served in bear-shaped jars delight all children (and adults). The dishes deserve nothing but our praise: the coconut salmon tom yum soup is pleasantly spicy and rich in vegetables, while the creamy pumpkin risotto has a perfect texture, with the white wine giving a nice aroma to the flavors. And despite being wrapped in plastic foil, somehow it makes me feel that it is served with the same love as they serve it in Fruccola restaurants. When shopping, we get loyalty points (so-called yo yos), which we can redeem later.

Thus if you’re looking for a quick and easy alternative for busy days, give Fruccola Bird a try—until the vending machines are installed, they will deliver the meals or you can pick them up in their units on both the Buda and the Pest sides. You shouldn’t worry even if you don’t have a microwave: there are many dishes that don’t require heating, while in the case of the main courses, everything can be heated up in a pan. If you’d still opt for the quickest solution, at least you’ll have a good reason to get to know your neighbor (true story, it has happened before).

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