Whether it’s breakfast, lunch or dinner (or breakfast, dinner, tea for our Northern readers), there is always demand in the workplace for fresh food. From sandwiches to ready meals, salad bowls to sausage rolls, we all get hungry and want something filling and delicious during the day.
So, as we steam towards 2024, we thought it would be worth looking at what exactly is on offer from the UK’s fresh food vending machine manufacturers, and what product lines are available for organisations to offer their employees to keep the hunger at bay.
Smart technology is changing fresh food machines for the better
Though you can still buy carousel machines to offer fresh food in the workplace, it’s safe to say that the industry has moved forward in leaps and bounds since this technology was first introduced. Commercial smart fridges, micro markets and other innovations have made it a much more natural experience to purchase and prepare fresh food in the workplace.
Cutting edge technology including internal camera systems, weighted shelves and RFID tagging are all beginning to make their impact on the vending world, each with their own strengths and weaknesses as emerging technologies. One thing is sure, regardless of the technology being employed – they all aim at reducing the barriers to purchase and delivering a seamless experience for consumers.
Fresh food machines are also now capable of self-monitoring, providing rich data insights back to a centralised system that can be accessed by clients, vending operators and management. This technology helps vending operators better manage inventory of fresh food machines, and gives the operators earlier and more insightful data on food which is due to expire or that is selling poorly.
This offers significant benefits for all parties and helps to minimise food wastage and make operations more efficient, so there’s less visits to site needed and fewer miles spent in cars. It’s a great demonstration of how smarter use of technology is helping businesses and the wider vending industry improve their sustainability.
But the biggest benefits of smarter use of technology in fresh food machines is to the consumer, the hungry employee who wants high quality food at a reasonable price, with a convenient and straightforward transaction process. Through smart fridges and micro markets, the consumer is better catered for than ever before, through the use of some fantastic self-serve till technology, and account-based purchasing that incentivises regular use with rewards.
Having barcode-scanning tills and kiosks means that vending machines are becoming more and more aligned with the retail experience you’d have at most other food retailers, and now even at clothing and other types of retailers. The future is unmanned retail, and thanks to technology from companies like 365 Retail Markets, this is now possible in workplaces. Micro markets go a step further for customer experience, with open shelves and fridge units enabling a ‘grab and go’ approach like in supermarkets.
Fresh food product ranges have grown rapidly and cater for all
It’s fair to say that fresh food machines used to get a bad rap, and for good reason – low quality, long shelf-life food would often be stocked in fresh food machines so that the human interaction was minimal and food wastage would be low. In today’s world though, the focus has shifted to high quality, nutritious and delicious food, and the way to achieve this is simple.
Rather than stocking long shelf-life products which compromise on taste, texture and general appearance to the consumer, the industry is heading in the opposite direction, taking fresh items that are already full of nutrients and are great quality, and finding ways to make them work in vending setups.
This has shifted the needle in supply chains and now means that fresh food providers are able to provide fresh food with normal shelf lives on smaller deliveries to sites where they are in high demand, and will be consumed very soon after being made available. This overcomes a major downside that fresh food vending experienced in past times, where the quality was not high enough to justify the investment in refrigerated vending equipment, forming a cycle that was hard to break.
Now the cycle has been broken, demand is high from employees for fantastic quality sushi, curries, ready meals, sandwiches, paninis and much more. Supply chains are making it easier to have this food available at a price that consumers are happy to pay, and so bringing fresh food into the workplace is a great, affordable option in today’s world.
These ranges have also had to adapt to changing consumer requirements, with the introduction of a vast number of gluten free, vegan and vegetarian options for staff to enjoy. From a business perspective, staff are much more likely to feel valued and satisfied if their specific requirements have been catered for, and makes their life much more convenient and less stressful.
Flexible payment systems are now the norm
If you’ve used or purchased a fresh food vending machine in the last couple of decades, you’ve probably had to use a coin mech or note reader to pay for your fresh food product. Cash was king for a long time, and fresh food machines were just like any other machine, needing cash and coins to be operated.
Not in 2023 – the vast majority of transactions that now take place in the vending world are done using cashless methods, such as contactless card or through a digital payment wallet. There’s also now the possibility to add funds to online accounts which can be logged into with a fingerprint or other biometric, using a till, removing the need to carry a card or payment wallet with you at all.
Ultimately the power is now your hands. If your workplace is one where people are reluctant to use card payments, aren’t allowed access to personal phones during the day or has particularly bad access to internet or 4G, there is still the possibility of using cash payments.
One caveat to this would be a micro market/smart fridge setup, where the payment system has no internal coin or note storage and can only accept cashless payment. If you’re like many other businesses looking to buy a fresh food vending machine in today’s world, you’ll have access to cashless payments and potentially account-based purchases, thanks to advances in technology.
Whatever your fresh food requirements are, there’s sure to be a solution that’s perfect for you. We take the work out of your hands and put together a recommendation that will overcome your challenges and meet your objectives.
Simply speak to one of our vending experts on 01865 341011 or drop us an enquiry, and we’ll get you started on the journey to a better vending experience. We look forward to hearing from you!