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In some science-fiction works the job of food service is relegated to automated slots in the wall or machines. They may be Matter Replicators or simply a dispenser of stored food like a vending machine.

Usually comes in one of two varieties: "any food imaginable" or "artificial food only".


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Onabe from Doraemon: Nobita and the Robot Kingdom is a robot oven who cooks up a delicious meal by eating the ingredients first. Introduced in Chapek's kitchen, Onabe swallows a large pile of vegetables and voila, instant salad. Applies only for the manga, though; in the anime adaptation, Onabe's a generic robot cook.

    Comic Books 
  • In one Silver Age Superman Imaginary Story, asking "What if Krypton had never exploded?", the fast pace of Kryptonian science is illustrated by a scene of the Els getting a food slot installed that sends meals from a central kitchen. (The slower pace of Kryptonian social science is illustrated by specifying that this saves Lara having to cook.)

    Fan Works 
  • The Keys Stand Alone:
    • In The Soft World, the Infinity chain of restaurants serves as a fast-food Auto Kitchen wherever one appears; you can literally go in and order anything you want and get it in minutes. The four, with their various dietary preferences and restrictions, rely on these restaurants in most of the cities they visit.
    • The Anything store is an "Auto Kitchen" for ordinary items.
  • Rocketship Voyager: In Voyager's messdeck, Tom Paris plants his magheel boots before a row of galley slots, activates a Video Phone and speaks to the ship's cook, who informs him that artificial food is the only thing available. A few minutes later a food container emerges along with a squeeze-tube of illicit moonshine; Paris surreptitiously drops a tenner into the slot in payment for the booze before it closes.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • 2001: A Space Odyssey: When the astronauts want to eat, they go to a wall unit and press buttons. Within a few seconds, trays of food are heated and appear behind sliding glass doors.
  • Aliens: After the Colonial Marines wake up aboard the starship Sulaco, they eat a meal in a mess hall. They take their food from slots in a machine on the wall. The food is presumably stored and prepared by the machine.
  • Doc Brown's machine seen in the opening credits of Back to the Future is a somewhat Rube Goldberg-esque device that comes on at 7:54, activates the coffee machine, turns on the TV, pops down the toaster, and opens a can of dog food into Einstein's dish. It's essentially a spoof of the trope, since the point is to show that Doc has been gone for a few days and had forgotten to turn it off. In Back to the Future Part III he's built a more steampunky version in 1885 that makes bacon and eggs.
  • In Design for Dreaming, the female model demonstrates the features of the Kitchen of the Future by telling it to automatically mix and bake a birthday cake. Amusingly, the cake already has candles in it when the woman removes it from the oven.
  • Easy Living shows the then-popular automats, basically human-run vending machines with hot or cold food ready in automated slots which open when customers put in money. See the Real Life entry below.
  • In Flight to Mars (1951), when the Martians offer a tour of their Underground City, what does the sole girl demand to see first? The kitchen of course! She's informed that Martians don't have kitchens, only food laboratories where food is prepared ready to serve. She promptly declares Mars a woman's paradise.
  • Dr. Brainard in Flubber has an even more complicated one. Among other things, it uses a laser to crack the egg. Oddly enough for his Absent-Minded Professor character, it works perfectly, if you don't count the part that launches his trash can into the sky.
  • Pee-wee's Big Adventure: Pee-wee has a kitchen equipped to prepare breakfast automatically, though it looks like a large amount of work to reset everything, and not too useful when all he eats is two pieces of Mr. T cereal. He's probably trying to watch his diet.
  • In Smart House, the titular Smart House has fully prepared food items brought up from somewhere within or under the kitchen. When a malfunction affects the kitchen, the house's designer shuts down the AI, and the owner uses regular kitchen appliances (which are still present) to cook.

  • The Caves of Steel: People in the megacities of Earth are fed in section kitchens, large halls where food and cutlery appear from a slot in their table. However, it's made clear that this is not an automatic process; there's a large staff working behind the scenes, and the protagonist annoys them by using his police permit to order a meal instead of his ration tag (too many people using special permits causes auditing problems).
  • Every ship in The Culture is capable of this. In The Player of Games, Gurgeh and his guest order snacks and drinks from a ship the size of a large room:
    "Module," Za said, sprawling out over the seat and looking thoughtful, "I'd like a double standard measure of staol and chilled Shungusteriaung warp-wing liver wine bottoming a mouth of white Eflyre-Spin cruchen-spirit in a slush of medium cascalo, topped with roasted weirdberries and served in a number three strength Tipprawlic osmosis-bowl, or your best approximation thereof."
    "Male or female warp-wing?" the module said.
  • Homer Price features a story about an automated donut machine that his uncle acquires for his diner, which, once turned on, is unable to stop until it exhausts its seemingly limitless supply of dough.
  • The In Death series has the AutoChef, which many people rely on to cook for them and which can be programmed for all kinds of meals. Even multi-billionaire Roarke, despite his preference for having such things done the old-fashioned way, has one for convenience.
  • The John Carter of Mars novel A Princess of Mars has one of the earlier examples. Restaurants in Zodanga dispense meals through a hole in the table, no "human" contact involved.
  • The Known Space series has "autokitchens" that can convert vegetation into layered bricks of "food".
  • Sir Kofa Yokh from Labyrinths of Echo has a portable miniature kitchen, which looks like a small chest and is run by miniature cook figurines. The food they prepare is perfectly edible (and delicious) thanks to powerful magic.
  • In the recursive novelization of Moonraker, while on Drax's space station, James Bond and Holly Goodhead witness an automated gallery which has lasers that carve meat and a conveyor that delivers it to their seats.
  • In No Night Without Stars by Andre Norton, Sander finds an underground installation from the Before Days, the civilization that existed before the Dark Time. While exploring it, he finds a box with knobs on it. When he presses certain knobs, the box produces food.
  • Norby, the Mixed-Up Robot: Space Academy (and even apartments on Manhattan's 5th avenue) are equipped with computers/robots that perform most of the duties for cooking. It leads to problems for Jeff that he's so bad at learning Martian Colony Swahili that when he programmed a sleep-learning device, it accidentally hooked into the kitchen computer and downloaded classified information from Space Command and translated them into Martian while downloading the recipes into his head (without any help at translate, so the only reason he knows they're recipes is that he's eaten Martian cooking before). Admiral Yobo, in charge of the Space Academy, won't be able to get a decent meal until this can be fixed.
  • The Nutri Matic Drinks Dispenser in The Restaurant at the End of the Universe analyzes the nutritional needs and taste preferences of the user and produces a "suitable" liquid which always ends up being almost, but not quite, entirely unlike tea. In fact, when Arthur tells it to make real tea ("The taste of dried-up leaves boiled in water"), it essentially hijacks the circuits of the rest of the ship and freezes it for several hours (in the midst of an attack) before it finishes with what Arthur describes as "the best tea [he's] ever tasted".
  • In the Slingshot universe, most smaller ships have a food dispenser in lieu of or in addition to a proper galley. Everybody agrees that the food that comes out of them barely deserves the name. One of the main characters is on a never-ending quest to teach one of them how to make good scrambled eggs.
  • In A Stainless Steel Rat Is Born, Jim diGriz's home planet has a fast food chain called Macswiney's. One night he breaks into a Macswiney's, looking for a place to hide from the cops, and discovers that the restaurant is completely automated. Customers place their order via a computer screen or a microphone. By the time they finish, the entire order has been retrieved from deep-freeze and microwaved to serving temperature, although the customer doesn't actually get the food until they pay. The only human staff is the guy who comes by once a month to restock the freezers and collect the money.
  • Star Carrier has food items being built molecule-by-molecule by nanites extremely quickly.
  • The Cornucopia which Tiffany acquires in Wintersmith can miraculously produce anything harvested during the growing season, including all sorts of fruits, vegetables, nuts, or beverages such as milk or juice. You have to be careful what you say, as edible animals like chickens are provided while still raw, intact and living (werk), unless you specify how you want them prepared (Nanny Ogg's ham sandwiches) and even then, it will still produce far too much.
  • The Zero Stone: In the sequel, Uncharted Stars, Murdoc Jern has solar-powered food converters he uses as trade goods. They can process vegetation into highly nutritious food bars that can keep a human going for five days.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In the Buck Rogers in the 25th Century episode "Cruise Ship to the Stars", Buck Rogers' room has a set of controls and machinery in the wall that allow him to create food.
  • In Come Back Mrs. Noah, a "nutrition pill" is inserted into a robot chicken, which after much clucking produces a string of eggs. There's also the dispenser that squirts out raspberry jam at unpredictable intervals, forcing Mrs. Noah to run back and forth trying to catch it.
  • Doctor Who:
    • One episode has this in a case of Early-Installment Weirdness. It splits the difference between "any food imaginable" and "artificial food" by producing food bars that taste like actual food.
    • The TARDIS has a food dispenser in a room near the control room. The food it provides resembled the concentrated rations used by 20th century Earth astronauts (a Visual Pun on the phrase "a square meal"). It also issues water and milk in small plastic bags.
    • By Series 10 of the revival, there's apparently a macaroon dispenser also, suggesting multiple specialized devices of this trope. Series 11 has a custard cream dispenser built into the central console. (A working prop that was added as a surprise for Jodie Whittaker, who is fond of custard creams.)
  • How It's Made has a segment on the construction of a pizza vending machine (see Real Life section).
  • The Lexx has phallic appendages that drip a tasteless grey paste which becomes more watery when the Lexx itself is hungry.
  • In the Lost in Space episode "Wild Adventure", when the Robinsons (and Dr. Smith) sit down to eat, the Environmental Computer sends their meals out of a slot on the wall.
  • Red Dwarf:
    • A recurring bit with talking vending machines that produce a microwave container.
    • Holly's opening comments sometimes state that they have enough food stored for 30,000 years, but are out of "Shake'n'Vac".
    • In "Polymorph", Lister makes shami kebabs by shoving all the ingredients into a device that looks like a microwave oven (because it is), and a few seconds later taking out some perfect kebabs.
  • Star Trek:
    • Star Trek: The Original Series has slots in the wall which can produce any food desired by inserting the correct computer tape.
    • Star Trek: The Next Generation and all later series in the timeline have replicators.
    • Star Trek: Enterprise has the "protein resequencer", presumably an early-stage predecessor of TOS's food-slots. Members of the crew in this era sometimes complain that everything it generates tastes the same, unlike the more advanced systems to follow.
  • UFO (1970): In the first episode, "Identified", the break room in Moonbase has what appears to be an automat-style setup on one wall, with six different sets of meal slots divided by nationality (French, Italian, Russian, American, English and Chinese). They apparently didn't foresee fusion cuisine.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 1st Edition: Module S3, "Expedition to the Barrier Peaks", takes place inside a crashed starship. Kitchen areas have computer operated food dispensers that provide food to the vegepygmy monsters. If the PCs can learn how to operate the controls, they can get food to eat. Unfortunately, there is a 50% chance that the food is poisonous.
  • In the Battlelords of the 23rd Century supplement Lock-N-Load: The Battlelord's War Manual, the Food Synthesizer unit can produce any kind of food on demand, including meat, fruit, and juices. It comes with enough food powder to create 500 units of food, and more food powder can be purchased.
  • Most food in Eclipse Phase is produced by nanofabricators. Ones specialized for production of edibles are called "makers", the cheapest ones only make beverages, ration bars and nutrient paste, more expensive ones can fab anything from yoghurt to fugu testes.
  • Gamma World module GW1, "Legion of Gold":
    • Each underground shelter has a food and beverage dispenser set into the wall. It is button-operated, with a 50% chance of spewing out a greenish paste that is deadly poisonous.
    • Inside the underwater SAMURAI facility is a kitchen area with a large machine. If properly activated, it can process seaweed into edible food with a variety of flavors, temperatures, textures and colors.
  • GURPS Steam-Tech includes in its "Mechanical Men" section a steam-powered sushi chef. Horror stories that they can be reprogrammed to use their knives for other purposes are common but unsubstantiated.
  • In Man, Myth & Magic Adventure 1 The Glastonbury Labyrinth, inside the Atlantean vimana (spaceship) are metal cabinets that dispense food and drink when the correct buttons are pressed. Food is limited to synthetic T-bone steaks, bananas, vegetables, salt and fish or other seafood. Drinks include water, wine and beer.
  • Metamorphosis Alpha: In the Gygax magazine #3 adventure "They All Died at the International Space Station", one room of the space station is a luxury apartment for a wealthy person on holiday. It has an automated kitchen that can create meals for the guest.
  • Paranoia:
    • In the adventure Send in the Clones, the NBD sector Commissary is set up like a 1950s automat. Individual food items are behind little glass windows in the walls — just open a window and take the item.
    • In the Twilightcycle 2000 adventure, one of the Player Characters' items of equipment is the Port-O-Vat. Just put in any kind of organic material and the Port-O-Vat will process it into a bizarre food combination, such as Proto-Algae a la king.
    • In the XP edition supplement The Underplex, just put a cupful of organic ingredients (mushrooms, tree bark, cockroaches), water and an enzyme cocktail into the QuikFun Enzyme Kit's hopper and let it autostir. In a few minutes you'll have delicious Hot Fun!
  • Shadowrun:
    • In the 2nd Edition main rules section "Lifesyles of the Rich and Shadowy", the Average lifestyle description says that "the autocook has a full selection of flavor faucets". Statements in the other sections indicate that the autocook prepares a substance called "nutrisoy" that has flavors added to it.
    • In the supplement The Neo-Anarchists' Guide to Real Life, McHugh's restaurants have computer-controlled food preparation equipment. When the customer makes his selection, the food items are automatically moved to the appropriate preparation equipment, defrosted/heated as needed and delivered to the customer.
  • Classic Traveller:
    • In the game Azhanti High Lightning, booklet Supplement 5 "Lightning Class Cruisers'', the Crew Quarters Deck galley has automatic equipment that prepares the food.
    • In Adventure 2 Research Station Gamma, the station's kitchen is fully automated and can prepare food on command.
    • Judges Guild adventure Darthanon Queen. The title starship has a galley with fully automatic food preparation equipment.
    • In the Classic Adventure "Disappearance on Aramat", the old Vilani base on Aramat has "food synthesizing units" that can create nutritious and edible food for human visitors.

    Video Games 

  • In Vexxarr, the Bleen apparently figured out how to use a Cesium reactor to produce cake.

    Western Animation 
  • Family Guy: In a Cutaway Gag, Peter is seen with a similar breakfast-making machine like Pee-Wee Herman's, which just shoots him.
  • The Simpsons: The second segment of "Thanksgiving of Horror" has an A.I. copy of Marge as the OS of the Simpson kitchen with control over robot arms to create food.
  • In the Superfriends 1973/74 episode "Professor Goodfellow's G.E.E.C.", every kitchen in the world becomes one of these while under control of the G.E.E.C. supercomputer, including the one in the G.E.E.C. building itself.
  • Wallace & Gromit have Rube Goldberg Devices to do all their cooking for them, which get progressively more complex over the course of the series. One of the "Crackling Contraptions" shorts has a robot chef that predictably goes haywire.

    Real Life 
  • The automat. Until 1991, when the last one closed, automats were not only a cheap source of good food, they were that era's Starbucks. Novels and screenplays were written there. Creative people on a tiny budget, from H. P. Lovecraft to Patti Smith, could eat there without breaking the bank. The concept survives in Europe, however due to COVID-19 Pandemic, they are slowly making a comeback in North America.
  • NASA has invested in a 3-d food printer for use on Mars missions.
  • Conveyor belt sushi restaurants are popular in Japan, and have started to spread outside the country.
  • The common bread maker could be considered a basic version of this trope. Load in the ingredients, start it up, walk away, and come back later to a fresh loaf of bread.
  • Multiple companies are either producing or developing pizza vending machines. The machine mixes, kneads, and lays out the dough, then dispenses sauce, cheese, and other user-selected toppings, then puts the pizza into an oven to bake, then pulls the pizza out and signals the customer to take it (other companies make vending machines which simply store pre-assembled pizzas and bake then on demand).