Yorkshire Times
A Voice of the North
5:00 AM 3rd April 2021

Saturday Essay: An Insight To The Powerful Transformation Of The Vending Industry

Paul Hearne, Managing Director, Selecta UK & Ireland gives an insight to the powerful transformation of the Vending industry

It has been found that 55% of the vending industry is in danger due to Coronavirus in a recent study from Plimsoll Ratings Analysis.

A frightening stat, but sadly true; the vending industry, like many others, has been hit hard by COVID-19.

74 Automatic Vending companies in the UK have been given a Danger rating in last year's Plimsoll Ratings Analysis, with a further 39 being at risk of takeover.

However, it is not all doom and gloom for vending. 2021 is set to be the year for finding new and innovative solutions to provide more effective and efficient refreshment provisions. At the forefront of this, is a huge onus on the paramount importance of cashless payments and MicroMarkets are the leading cashless payment force giving a new lease of life to office catering and commercial/workplace vending.

As the world changes, so do refreshment requirements. Both vending and catering are due for a significant upgrade, and we’re here to tell you how.

The ever-changing world of Catering and Vending

In the UK alone, 47% of people in employment worked from home last year, 86% did so due to COVID-19.

No matter how you look at it, our new working world is set to be a flexible one. With nearly half of the employed population working more remotely and flexible hours becoming the new normal, the structured catering set-up operating within core hours is no longer suitable for most businesses.

The ‘lunch rush’ is a thing of the past. People are looking for a safe and hygienic way to enjoy their lunch, whenever that may be. Furthermore, the Trades Union Congress (TUC) uncovered that two out of five workers are worried about not being able to socially distance in the workplace. Crowded canteens only open during certain hours are no longer a way for staff members to safely enjoy their lunch. With social distancing restrictions and safety seen as a key priority for Facilities teams, a self-serve, around the clock solution is very much the way forward.

Not only this but most businesses are thinking about allowing employees to permanently work some hours remotely, which means that time on-site will be deemed more valuable. This time will be aimed towards interaction with team members, face-to-face meetings, and all this being crammed into shorter time frames than we are used to. Long leisurely lunches will be a thing of the past. Instead, grab and go, on-site lunches which can be enjoyed in a meeting setting, will be an appealing solution for a jam-packed office day.

Increased health and safety

Packaged food is something that is becoming more important too, as it is presented as uncontaminated. Service within canteens has become an element that is no longer without risk. Not only this, but packaged food is a much more convenient solution for flexible working hours.

Paul Hearne
Paul Hearne
Like traditional catering, traditional vending has taken a hit too. With a big drop in spontaneity and the daily commute becoming a thing of the past, the fall in foot traffic has massively affected sales. This has been evident with machines at train stations, airports, and semi-public spaces like leisure sites and universities, not to mention the reduction that has been seen across several workplace sectors, especially in inner-City areas.

Nearly 3 million vending machines in Japan dropped more than 35% last year, as people worked from home and stayed away from offices and dense city centres. Make no mistake, catering and vending are by no means on the verge of extinction, but to adapt in line with consumer demands, innovation has never been more important.

Future refreshment requirements are changing, with the vending industry planning significant upgrades for 2021 and beyond.

The driving force of MicoMarkets

In a recent report TAF Catering voted MicroMarkets one of the top 10 food disrupters in the workplace post COVID-19. So, what exactly is a Micro market I hear you ask?

MicroMarkets are compact, self-serve stores that provide fresh, healthy food and drink 24/7. Automated and requiring no staff, MicroMarkets are at the cutting edge of enterprise catering solutions. They consist of an open rack display, reach-in refrigerated coolers or/and freezers and a self-checkout kiosk. Consumers can pay using cash, credit/debit cards, or with pre-paid credit. They offer a wide variety of options. A single MicroMarket can easily stock between 500-1000 products.

Once installed, a MicroMarket works just like a supermarket. Customers choose from a range of chilled drinks, healthy snacks, sandwiches, and fruit. Then, they use the self-service payment kiosk to purchase their items. With its self-serve format, using the latest and fastest technology, you can select what you’d like, scan items at the rapid pay kiosk, and pay with fingerprint, contactless payment, or even your own 365 Beacon App, available all day, every day.

All the convenience of a shop, without ever having to leave the office. And for your enterprise, you get all the benefits of a canteen, which is open around the clock. We brought the concept to the UK in 2016, under the name Express HUB. These innovative solutions also hugely benefit employee wellbeing. Many healthy alternatives are offered, such as a fresh juice bar that was implemented by Express Vending in 2020.

What else is on the horizon when it comes to innovation for UK workplace catering?

Healthier choices

MicroMarkets can be completely customised, such as the introduction of fresh juice bars. With a focus on employee wellbeing, you can introduce a juice bar to help promote healthy living with clients. This was a response to the compelling research that showed employee health has a direct correlation with employee productivity.

It has been found that employees with unhealthy diets were 66% more likely to be underproductive, then members of staff who ate fruit and vegetables. The revolutionary and innovative juice bar facility, now being embraced by UK workplaces, can offer smoothies and juices made on site by a trained static operator, using a wide range of fresh and healthy products. The drinks can be 100% customisable, served in completely biodegradable cups.

Whilst driving the MicroMarket across Europe will be a huge focus this year, there will also be significant investments into brand new initiatives including, Smart Fridges and Distance Selection coffee machines.

Distance selection coffee machines

Distance Selection coffee machines are designed to give employees touch-free access to their favourite refreshments. The intuitive design replicates a traditional coffee machine, replacing mechanical pushbuttons with hygienic, touch-free selection technology.

Employees can select their drinks by hovering their fingers over the screen – up to 2 centimetres away – so, it’s a completely contact-free way to choose your refreshments. You can even use the Distance Selection technology while wearing gloves, for those working in shared spaces

This new technology for coffee machines was designed to be COVID-19-secure. So, staff can continue to make the most of their lunchtime and breaks, enjoying delicious drinks with the peace of mind of staying safe against the spread of viruses and bacteria.

Smart fridges

Smart fridges are an alternative 24-hour, self-serve concept that suits any location. By using scan and contactless payment, the fridge unlocks allowing you to take any product you want as the scales register what you remove. Smart Fridges give you full access to the products before you buy. When you have the product you want, you simply close the fridge, walk away and you will be automatically charged for the items taken.

There are different types of smart fridges available for businesses too. Ones, which stock a wide variety of fresh products and have a more ‘deli’ feel to them and ‘minicoolers’, which smaller workplaces can benefit from. Specifically designed for small offices and workplaces with fewer people, small fridges offering simple snacks and chilled drinks, with no waste are the ideal solution for workplaces where traditional vending solutions wouldn’t make sense or wouldn’t physically fit. The products on offer can be customised to suit the clients’ needs too.

What the future holds

As a result of increased efficiency and convenience for both consumers and operators, we believe the MicroMarket channel will continue to grow exponentially in 2021. This will (eventually) lead to a decline, removal and replacement of banks of vending machines as time goes on.

As a business, we’ve seen a huge uptake in COVID-secure offerings, in particular from clients in the manufacturing and logistics sectors, whose places of work have had to remain open during the global pandemic. We’ve also seen a lot of interest from the financial services industries throughout 2020 too.

Prioritising safety and efficiency, MicroMarkets, distance selection technology, and Smart Fridges are the epitome of convenience in our new flexible working world.
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