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Catering v. Vending – How about a Micro Market?

It’s very difficult to argue that the COVID-19 pandemic has not impacted the food and beverage setups of many organisations in the UK, especially those with in-house canteens and fully catered solutions. With cost pressures rising and employees seeking high quality food and drink throughout the day, what solutions are available to organisations needing to move away from a full catering setup?

For decades the two options have been clear – you outsource your food and beverage provision to a catering company who use your canteen to deliver hot meals at peak times during the day, or you provide snacks, fresh food and drinks through a range of vending machines on-site. Which solution a company opts for depends largely on price and employee working patterns. Sites where employees are working on rotation, often at unsociable hours, are better candidates for traditional vending setups, whereas standard 9-5 office-based businesses might find a better solution in catering.

However, catering setups require several overheads which are making them increasingly unsustainable as a solution for workers with hybrid work models. There will always be a need for staff to operate canteens, with the space being inoperable when staff finish for the day. There is also often the requirement for a professional catering kitchen setup, which can prove costly to maintain.

Traditional vending solutions remove these overheads by offering an unmanned food and beverage option at all hours, with a double benefit of reduced operating costs and increased item availability. However, for all the strengths of vending machines, they are not suitable for every setting, which leaves us asking the question of ‘how do I pick between catering or vending?’. Fear not… micro markets are here, and they’re bridging the gap to offer the best of both worlds.

A micro market is an unmanned retail environment, without the barriers of conventional vending. You might be familiar with this sort of setup if you’ve ever been into a convenience store where you can buy coffee, snacks, fresh food, as well as having access to the facilities to heat up food and take it away with you. A micro market, in effect, is a well-equipped and well stocked self-serve convenience store within a workplace or other non-retail setting.

Employees can pick their items straight from a shelf or fridge, scan these items at the self-service terminal and pay contactless, chip & PIN or on account. The back-office software which brings these stores to life allows organisations to setup meal deals, reduce prices of short-dated stock, and offer seasonal bundle prices for staff, all at the click of a button. Not only does this help businesses vary their offering to employees, but it helps them get a far better understanding of the highest and lowest selling items, measure the impact of promotions and help them tailor their solution to their workforce. With only 1 in 5 catering operators believing that they’re getting the most out of their customer data, this is a massive plus of the micro market concept.

At Connect Vending, we call this solution Deli Café, and we’ve helped organisations move away from catering setups to a more cost effective, more flexible food and beverage solution, whilst offering a great range of fresh food, snacks, hot drinks and other beverages, around the clock.

If you’re not sure that a jump from catering to vending would be the right fit for your business, why not talk to us about a Deli Café micro market – we’re confident that you’ll love what you see.

Contact us to find out more.