Embracing Unattended Retail for Food and Drink in the Workplace.

You may not be familiar with the phrase ‘unattended retail’, but you will most definitely have had an experience that falls into this category. Whether that’s a self-service till at a fast food chain, or shopping in one of Amazon’s till-less stores, you’ve experienced one form or another of unattended retail.

Unattended retail solutions utilise cutting edge technology to deliver a more frictionless, less stressful and more convenient way of accessing food, drink and other fast moving goods. This transition first started with the arrival of self-serve checkouts in supermarkets, and has rapidly become an attractive way of serving products more effectively, including in workplace micro markets.

In this article we look at how UK workplaces are benefitting from unattended retail, and how the rise of smart technology will lead to an even better food and drink retailing experience over the coming decades.

A familiar self-service experience

It’s highly likely that you have used a self-service till at some point over the last ten years, and with retailers moving further towards a self-serve model in many areas, this will only become more common. Supermarkets typically now have a combination of Scan As You Shop and standard self-service checkouts, depending on how the person prefers to do their shopping.

In UK workplaces, the arrival of micro market unattended retail has seen this shopping experience become a reality for on-site food and drink purchases. A micro market is exactly what it says on the tin – a shrunk down convenience store that sits in a canteen or breakout area, and offers a range of hot food, cold food, snacks, cold drinks and hot drinks. These come with a range of different tills and kiosks for scanning and checking out, but the experience is largely the same as that which consumers have become accustomed to at supermarkets.

The familiarity of a similar self-checkout experience from a supermarket to their workplace removes purchase barriers and helps consumers quickly grab a snack, lunch or a hot drink without needing to worry about ordering or queuing in the micro market.

The range of a convenience store, without leaving the building

Micro markets are lauded for their impressive number of product lines across each food and drink category, much more than would be available through a vending setup and often more than can be stocked in a fully managed canteen setup.

Fresh food in micromarkets can include paninis, wraps, sandwiches and international foods like Indian snacks, curries, sushi and more. For food which requires heating or other prep before consumption, micro markets can be fitted with grills and microwaves. This means that the selection, purchase, preparation and consumption of food and drink can be facilitated within a single area of the workspace.

One thing which is often cited as a reason to opt against a micromarket unattended retail setup, is that there are shops within the local area that offer a greater range and are within a 15-20 minute walk or car journey. There will inevitably be a greater range of food in a large supermarket, but the reality is that most of this food is not on-the-go lunch food, and nor does the average consumer have interest in a large amount of the product lines offered.

Micro markets allow employers to offer a range which includes all the favourites, across breakfast lunch and even dinner, whilst offering immediate access. This is particularly important on manufacturing sites or those with short breaks, where getting out even for 15 minutes would burn through half a lunch break and not help staff relax and rest when they really need it. The convenience of having great quality food and drink available in the same building cannot be understated.

Meal deals and account based sales, in the workplace

By utilising the backoffice tools that come with unattended retail solutions, businesses can offer meal deal incentives, seasonal promotions and more, to engage their staff and encourage repeat purchases. For businesses where it’s preferable to keep staff on site, either for safety, practicality or cultural reasons, having loyalty programmes and other promotional mechanisms helps to tick this box.

This also gives greater flexibility around product range and pricing, should an employer decide they want to remove or add product lines, or introduce subsidies. Changes can be quickly implemented at the back end of the system, and can update the live terminal at the micro market within a matter of minutes. This would not be as easy to implement with traditional vending, or with canteen setups.

These fantastic technological tools can also help companies get a clearer view of the buying behaviour of customers, as well as giving vending operators rich data on the best selling and worst selling product lines. Equipped with this information, the operator and employer can implement changes to better engage with (and increase satisfaction of) staff.

There is much more to come

Like with the Amazon example, the world of unattended retail has huge potential for innovation. Whereas today the self service till model is prominent, it’s likely that we’ll see the rise of weighted shelving, camera tracking and RFID tagged items over the coming years.

We are seeing these innovations hit the market in the US today, and with the UK following suit with micro market innovation on the whole, we can expect to see this technology eventually available in workplace micro markets.

To find out more about the new world of workplace micromarkets, speak to our team of sales experts. They’re on hand to help you find the best solution for your workforce. Simply give us a call on 01865 341011 or send us an enquiry to receive a callback.

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