If you’re the person responsible for the food and beverage solutions at your workplace, odds are you’ve heard about micro markets a lot over the past few years. They’re taking the UK world of food and drink vending by storm, but is the hype really justified?
In this article we look at the reasons behind the rapid growth of the micro market, and explore whether the hype is justified. Do micro markets deliver, and will they stand the test of time?
The origin of the Micro Market
Micro markets have been in the UK market for almost a decade, having landed from the US back in the mid 2010’s. The concept has been growing in popularity almost exponentially in the States, with barrier-free access to quality food and drink and the self-service model proving particularly appealing to American consumers.
Companies like 365 Retail Markets have made huge technological strides when it comes to developing till and back-office systems for micro markets, and have been refining their hardware and software for decades. Their experience designing and building micromarket systems in the US has made them a forerunner in the UK market, working with companies like Connect Vending to deliver tried and tested unattended retail technologies.
The micromarket concept has been particularly successful as it offers a seamless consumer experience from the point of picking items, to scanning and checking out, something which both US and UK consumers are now very familiar with, having using self-service tills for many years in supermarkets.
One area of divergence between the two geographies is where the micro markets are deployed. In the US they are extremely popular as standalone stores, the equivalent of a 7/11 or a Tesco Express, where a large range of products is available to consumers without there needing to be staff on-site.
In the UK, micro markets are more popular within workplaces, where they have seen rapid uptake by business ridding themselves of costly, inflexible catering setups and implementing micro markets in their place. This isn’t to say that there aren’t micromarkets in public spaces in the UK, but the uptake in private settings has been more rapid.
Micro markets really are a better solution than catering
Businesses with 150+ staff that have large canteen spaces, are increasingly finding the space underutilised and expensive to run, especially when there’s a traditional catering setup in place. This is especially true with sites where shift work is the norm, as the catering is very rarely available outside of standard working hours.
We’ve seen it with businesses like Portals Paper, who Connect Vending worked with to transform their catering setup into a full micro market, where the setup doesn’t allow access to shift staff, and catering costs have increased to the point of being unsustainable.
With a micromarket, they were able to provide round-the-clock access to great quality food and drinks, and a vastly expanded product range to include the world’s leading snack and confectionery brands. Not only this, there was no longer a need to order, wait and queue to pay, as everything in a micro market is self-service.
The quality of food and drink is excellent
One of the biggest comments that we’ve seen out in the market is around the quality of the food and drinks that are available through a micro market. There’s a misbelief that the fresh food options, such as sandwiches, paninis and ready meals are going to be very low quality as they haven’t been prepared in the kitchen by a catering team.
This couldn’t be further from the truth. The food that is available in micromarkets is great quality, from the ingredients that go into the fresh food, to the coffee beans and milk that goes into the coffee machines. Yes, you can still get hold of your favourite microwaveable burgers and your pasties, but you also have access to soups, noodle boxes, fresh salads and more.
There’s also a common misconception that micro market fresh food will be packed full of preservatives and left for two weeks in a fridge, making it less than desirable to purchase and eat. Sales in micro markets can be lightning fast, selling hundreds of products a day, and the fresh food stocked in fridges is as fresh as anything you would pick up from a supermarket or get from a high street coffee chain. Most of the products need to be turned around within three days to retain their freshness, or they’ll be removed from sale. Quality is just as important in a micro market as it is in any other food retailing space.
When it comes to coffee, micro markets have some of the best commercial coffee machines that you’ll likely come across in your working life. Micro markets are a premium offering, typically in workplaces with broad consumer demographics, and so having a flexible and high-quality coffee solution is extremely important.
Staff prefer to stay on site with micro markets
There will always be occasions when staff want to head off-site to buy something specific, whether it’s food and drink or a last minute birthday card, and this will always happen. But most staff, most of the time, would rather be able to grab something nice to eat and drink, and relax in a comfortable breakout area, to recharge their batteries.
Workspaces are great for driving collaboration and increased productivity by having areas for staff to sit and run informal meetings and sessions. This has a two fold benefit for breaktimes, with staff being able to kick back and relax with their colleagues and socialise in a non-work context. Drawing people into that space at lunch with great food promotions such as meal deals, and delicious coffee, makes it all the more appealing.
Organisations benefit not only from their staff feeling rested and recharged in a relaxed environment during their breaks, but they are also more likely to seamlessly get back into the swing of their work once they’ve finished. Even if this means employees are doing their best work 10 minutes sooner after returning from lunch, across 100 staff that’s a serious amount of regained productive time.
So… worth the hype?
Without a doubt, micro markets are worth the hype. They deliver benefits on so many fronts that it’s easy to see why businesses are turning to them ahead of more vending machines or continuing with catering. Employees love the flexibility and barrier-free nature of micromarket food and drink, and businesses love the cost savings and better atmosphere of staff eating on-site.
If you’d like to learn more about how micro markets can help your business transform your food and drink setup, reach out to our friendly sales consultants on 01865 341011 or contact us to arrange a callback. We’d love to hear from you.
Alternatively you can read more about our Deli Cafe micro market solution here, and look at some of our other micro market blog articles: