It’s an idea that has the social media channels humming, and I have to admit, I’d love to have such a gadget in my kitchen. But something rings untrue about Stouffer’s announcement that its’ developed a machine that can dispense Mac & Cheese like a Beer tap pours Suds. Allow me to explain…
The new Stauffer’s Mac & Cheese On Tap dispenser? Maybe; maybe not…
The official photo, which was apparently released late last month by Stouffer’s (the frozen entrées and sides giant), purports to show the prototype of a new machine designed to dispense pre-made Mac & Cheese onto anything you can place under its spout.
“And the fans go wild!”
But there are some glaring issues
That’s a predictable response. But how likely is it that such a machine actually exists? Or even could exist? Let me run down some of my objections…
First: Although there have been machines that dispense thick, sticky substances, such as Soft Serve Ice Cream into cones – and, more to the point, Nacho Cheese Sauce onto trays of chips (predominantly at cinema and stadium concession counters) – I have doubts that a machine could be contrived to do the same successfully for Cheese Sauce heavily populated with Macaroni Elbows. I suspect the Macaroni would be mutilated in the process. But let’s set that point aside for a moment and look at other issues…
Second: How easy would such a machine be to use on the restaurant front lines? I’m thinking especially, here, about portion control and ‘aiming’ the outflow. But Let’s assume these issues could also be successfully addressed…
Third: I have my doubts that the Mac and Cheese could be reliably dispensed, with a consistent blend of Pasta and Sauce.
Fourth: I also suspect that issues arising from point 3, above, would result in frequent machine jams that would cause customer disappointment and even animosity. Have you ever had to deal with a Mac & Cheese fan who’s been denied his/her fix?
Fifth: Again due to issues raised in point 3, and their consequences as enunciated in point 4, above, I suspect that the machines would often be ‘broken’; or ‘out of service’. Remember all those insider reports about why the old McDonald’s Shake machines were always ‘down for repairs’? Staff were just too grossed out by the prospect of cleaning or un-jamming them that they’d rather say the machines were ‘broken’ than admit they were simply in need of routine service that nobody wanted to perform.
Let’s return for a moment to the photo above and its companions…
The photo in question – and all other photos I’ve been able to source – can’t be traced back officially to Stouffer’s.
Another photo found via Googling Mac on Tap and selecting ‘images’ clearly shows faked ‘serving suggestion’ sub-images – the same glop of Mac & Cheese clumsily glued to various images of trays of various diner menu items. A company like Stouffer’s – owned by food processing behemoth Nestlé – would never stoop so low in official media-release images.
The main photo has an overall look of something that’s been clumsily pieced together by a newbie Photoshop user: Some elements of the image are knife-edge sharp while others are downright fuzzy. I’m especially suspicious of the tap spout and handle (noticeably fuzzy) as opposed to the Stouffer’s logos and labels on the body of the machine (pro-photograph crisp).
And about that tap spout: It could barely dispense one Macaroni Elbow at a time, let alone a whole mess of the mix as shown at the far right of the image.
Now look closer at the Mac & Cheese part of the image: That Mac & Cheese on the right half of the image is clearly being dropped off of a wooden spoon!
Those are just the more obvious issues I see with the image.
What’s really going on?
Today.com says it’s talked to (or contacted via social media via a Twitter account that may or may not be legit), a Stouffer’s rep who told them: “Mac on Tap is a food dispenser with an internal heater that keeps pre-cooked Stouffer’s mac and cheese at serving temperature. […] With one pull of the lever, creamy mac will pour out from an aptly sized metal tap. It can go straight into a bowl for dinner […] or on top of whatever food item folks can get their hands on.”
There’s a remote chance, I guess, that Stouffer’s is perfecting a Mac & Cheese ‘tap’, and has released an obvious photo ‘collage’ meant to mislead the competition about the device’s actual appearance and functionality. When auto makers are testing the driveability of new body designs on the test track, they routinely paint the prototypes up with special camouflage patterns that are designed to break up the visible lines of the body design to mislead the opposition, who always have operatives stalking the tracks for any info they can get about their competitors’ plans. But for a Mac & Cheese dispenser? I think it’s unlikely Stouffer’s would go to such extremes.
I think that one of two possible things is going on, here:
- Stouffer’s is pranking us all for purposes yet to become apparent. Or-
- The otherwise-respectable and well-run food news sources on which I saw the story referenced have been pranked by a troll or trolls unknown.
The bottom line is, I have no clear idea; only conjectures as expressed above. I’ve tried to get in touch with Stouffer’s and its parent company, Nestlé, via their website ‘Submit a Question’ pages and e-mail, and have been blocked at every turn. It’s as if they just don’t want to deal with customer or media inquiries at this time. Maybe trying to get a statement from them while the COVID-19 crisis still rages is just wishful thinking. Maybe they’re trying to get to the bottom of this story, too… But if they aren’t talking, and aren’t responsible, where did the story (and the image, above) come from, and why?
We’ll keep an eye on this perplexing story for you, and update if and when further information becomes available…
~ Maggie J.