Introduced as a concept to the US market in 2009, micro markets are a rapidly growing alternative to traditional vending, thanks to their innovative melding of convenience, intuitive self-service and high-quality food and drink.
In the US there are estimated to be more than 50,000 micro markets in operation and in the UK, micro market installations grew more than 350% in 2021.
Earlier this year we wrote an article discussing the point that businesses consider transitioning from catering to a micro market - in today's piece we look at the upgrade options from vending to micro market, a move which more and more businesses are looking to make.
The Micro Market Concept
Micro markets come in a familiar form for anyone who has been to a convenience store or supermarket – consumers have access to a range of food and drink products which they are free to pick from shelves, and then scan items at the self-serve checkout before paying and taking their items.
In effect, the micro market takes a full food and drink retail experience and shrinks it down into a self-contained build which can fit in an office kitchen space, or repurposed canteen area. Within your typical micro market setup, you can expect to find a combination of floorstanding coffee machines or tabletop coffee machines, fresh food fridges, ambient bays for crisps, confectionery and other snacks, and food preparation or microwave bays. Each of the retail units will then have a checkout area with barcode scanner and till terminal.
The concept has proven particularly popular in environments where catering setups have proven to be too costly and inflexible to retain, and where traditional vending machine setups are either restricting the number of product lines that can be held, or do not encourage staff to come and interact with one another collaboratively, within the rest area.
It’s typical for micro markets to be installed in busy offices, or workplaces where space is ample, and companies place a particular focus on providing excellent quality food and drink for their entire workforce.
Benefits of a Micro Market to Staff
Opting for a micro market build in the workplace offers many benefits to staff and visitors:
- Micro markets are inherently more open and have reduced barriers to purchase, allowing staff to pick up products, take a closer look at what’s being sold and to read nutritional and other important product information from the packaging. By having the product in-hand, staff are more likely to trust the quality and value of the food and drink they’re considering.
- Regardless of shift start and end times, staff can take advantage of micro market food and drink provisions 24 hours a day, 7 days a week – in catering setups this is an issue with shift workers operating outside of the canteen opening hours. Traditional vending is available 24/7, but to access the same range of products as there would be in a typical micro market, staff would need to head off-site to the nearest supermarket and this is subject to opening hour issues for shift staff, too.
- Without the need for multiple standalone vending machines, there is more space to stock a greater number of product lines, giving a much greater variety of products for staff to enjoy. Breakfasts, lunches and even evening dinners can be catered for with a micro market solution, with the added space allowing for more varieties of fresh food products to be stocked.
- By nature, the self-service format makes for a more seamless end-to-end experience for staff, allowing them to grab multiple products, scan them and checkout in a single transaction.
Benefits of a Micro Market to Businesses
Not only do consumers benefit from micro markets, but there are many ways in which facilities managers and the wider business benefits from the solution:
- Till systems that micro markets utilise are smart devices, with internet connectivity helping make product and stock management both easier and quicker, for the vending operator.
This means that any requests from the business to change products, introduce new ones, and fixing issues with barcodes not scanning, can be looked into much quicker than with vending solutions – situations where an engineer would need to be called out to make configuration changes.
- Many businesses are keen for staff to stay on-site during their breaks and take advantage of the spaces available to them, and the food and drink provisions the business has invested in. With micro markets, consumer accounts can be easily set up, with staff being able to preload credit that will then be readily available for redemption through the checkout, helping keep staff coming back for more.
- Unlike most vending machine setups, micro market back-office systems have a wealth of promotional tools that can be utilised to draw staff back to the micro market, as well as helping the offerings to compete directly with high street promotions such as meal deals.
- Micro markets are inherently less complicated and therefore less prone to malfunctioning or breaking, than office vending machines. With far fewer mechanical components and moving parts, a micro market can provide food and drink with much improved reliability, helping deliver consistent options for staff without down time. This also means less reporting of, and managing of broken machines by facilities staff.
When to Upgrade to a Micro Market
Vending machines are a fantastic way of giving staff access to food and drink that they otherwise wouldn’t be able to enjoy, especially in locations that are too far from local shops and where staff prefer to stay on site during breaks.
Office coffee machines, fresh food vending machines and snack machines can, combined, provide a good range of options for most staff. But over time, with a business growing and the staff welfare needs of an organisation growing, there is a point at which the solution can’t keep pace with requirements.
It might be that there are now several vending machines taking up a lot of space and nowhere else for extra capacity to be installed, or there could be considerations about the appropriateness of the machines in an area that managers want to be relaxing and collaborative.
Whatever the reason, there are several benefits to making the transition away from office vending machines and towards a fully fledged micro market solution. When businesses make this decision, both the business and the consumers benefit from improved product variety, a more appealing food and drink experience, and a more relaxing retail environment to enjoy.
At Connect Vending, we can help you and your business understand the next steps for your on-site food and drink. Whether you’re looking to move into fresh food vending, or move to an unattended retail environment like a micro market, we can help you on the journey.
Speak to our expert team today and discover how you can enjoy great quality food and drink from the leading office coffee machine and vending machine manufacturers, in a bespoke package designed for your workplace.
Call us on 01865 341011 for more, or contact us for a callback from our team.