The last 18 months has been a minefield for almost every business in the country. Whilst everyone has been affected by the pandemic, the hospitality industry has been disproportionately damaged with bars, restaurants, cafes and canteens all forced to shut their doors for long periods.
As well as the impact of the pandemic on the traditional hospitality sector, sales from vending machines generated 70% less turnover in 2020 than they did in 2019. It’s clear that with workers staying at home, office vending machines were infrequently used, with vending machines in public spaces such as train stations and transport hubs seeing a similar dramatic reduction in footfall.
Whilst the initial lockdown resulted in substantially fewer vending machine sales, Greencore reported only a 26% reduction during the second lockdown when compared with the same period in 2019 (The Grocer, 2020). Despite these reduced numbers, was this a sign of things to come for the food-to-go market as the world emerges from the pandemic?
Before we get onto the recovery, let’s explore how vending helped keep the workers of the UK economy fuelled up during the height of the pandemic.
For some, vending was one of the only sources of food at a time when all cafes were closed, shops were running low on stock or had queues running around the corner. At this time, vending machines provided a safe alternative to venturing out of offices or into crowded environments and were a necessity for some.
Many employees and frontline workers who had to be at work whilst others stayed home were faced with a dilemma, thanks to their company canteens being shut. Without vending solutions to keep staff fed and watered, times would have been that much harder.
Flexibility is another core feature of vending machines that has moved to the forefront of many people’s thinking. The ability to have refreshments on hand 24/7 without the need for staff has proven to be an important tool in the fight against COVID as key businesses remained at work to keep the country going.
As we look to the near future and begin planning for the post-COVID return to work, the important role that vending machines could play becomes clear. Whilst there will never be a proper substitution for a staffed canteen or well-stocked local shop, vending machines have proven themselves to be a more than useful commodity.
Smart vending machines are one of the latest innovations in the sector and are set to become the norm for machines installed in the future. They provide a solution that can be completely contactless from selecting your item to payment and collection. Smart vending machines are designed to allow customers better access to fresh and healthy foods, a far cry from machines filled with crisps and chocolate that were common a few years ago.
As these smart vending machines are designed to house food safely there is zero contamination risk when compared with storing food and drink in communal fridges. Vending machine cleanliness is also of paramount importance to avoid food safety hazards from poor waste management. A regular cleaning service is recommended for all new machines being installed that can take place at the same time as stock replenishment and other maintenance.
Smart fridges and vending machines are a great solution for use in the workplace. They give you the ability to closely monitor stock whilst housing fresh food safely and effectively. The ability to track sales through the smart fridge’s software means the machine can let you know when it needs replenishing and can provide a detailed breakdown of the best and poorest selling items without you even needing to be on site.
Intelligent commercial coffee machines are a great example of where smart vending really works. Via an interactive LCD screen, users can select and customise their perfect drink, alert users when any maintenance issues arise, if anything needs restocking or if any ingredients need changing due to them passing their use-by date. This service is also available across all of our other smart machines via our managed solutions.
Deli Café is another example of where vending machines are likely to play a pivotal role in the return to normality, particularly when it comes to COVID 19 employer guidance. Its easy-to-use 24/7 nature makes it perfect for shift work and meets the needs of many employees who have come to expect a level of flexibility as standard.
For more information on how our vending machines could work in your environment please get in touch with our expert team today.