Best office perk in 2019? It just might be a micro market.

Serve yourself! That’s a concept everyone gets, and a micro market is an ideal solution for employers interested in helping their staff find convenient, nutritious snacks and meals at work.

Micro markets take many forms, but as a rule they are unattended retail shops where consumers can browse products on shelves and in refrigerated displays, allowing them to serve themselves. A self-checkout kiosk with a cashless system allows payment by credit card, company card or via biometrics. Think of it as an automated employee lunch or break room that can be tailored to each business with a customized selection of drinks, snacks and meals.

Most often found at workplaces with more than 125 employees, micro markets are the fastest growing segment of the foodservice channel, with plenty of space to keep growing. There are currently 17,000 micro markets in North America and the number is projected to double to 35,000 by 2022, according to Brad Bachtelle of research firm Bachtelle and Associates. Now that micro markets have moved beyond the concept stage, both operating companies and product manufacturers are looking at how to optimize micro market product sales and where the concept can be extended to beyond traditional work environments. Here are just a few of the advantages:

Convenience and time savings

The 3 pm slump is real and having an in-house source for snacks means staff can satisfy their hunger pangs quickly and easily, without having to leave the premises. It’s a quick and easy option that saves employees time and energy, and companies benefit from not having to offer a more expensive alternative like a staffed cafeteria. Employee accounts can be funded by HR or another workplace program or can be part of a company incentive or reward program.

Healthier options and more selection

Appeals courtInstead of a bank of conventional vending machines filled with soda, chips, candy bars and other typical items, a micro market allows for healthier options. Research has shown that consumers enjoy being able to physically pick up items and check nutritional labels. Another advantage of open shelving is their ability to offer greater product variety than vending machines. Package sizes don’t matter when displayed in a state-of-the-art fridge, so micro markets can carry larger meal-sized products than conventional vending set-ups.

Lower service costs

Setting up a micro-market is straightforward, and usually requires just three things:

  • adequate space for refrigerator units and shelving
  • an electrical supply
  • and an internet connection if the payment system requires it

There’s better inventory management due to web-based tracking, ensuring that products are fresh and up-to-date and reflect customer preferences. Maintenance is reduced as well, as there are no coin jams or coils hanging up before a sale is completed. Their growing popularity proves that micro markets are a cost-effective solution for companies in search of a workplace benefit employees will appreciate.

Using data and promotions

To successfully launch a micro market, it’s important to incentivize employees to explore it when it’s first installed, and then offer promotions on an ongoing basis to build loyalty. An initial promotion could involve pre-loading a set amount of money on employee payment cards, or through use of a code, so they will take advantage of the “free money” to explore the market. Digital signage can help advertise promotions and offers can be pushed out to staff in email blasts. Promotions come in all shapes and sizes. Combos of two or three items can be bundled for savings and will help increase purchases. Day-of-the-week promotions can become a habit-forming incentive for employees to take advantage of lower prices on certain items, like tacos on Taco Tuesdays, or sushi on Sushi Mondays. Another promotion could focus on healthy eating, by giving employees points for every item they purchase under a set calorie limit. Or a healthy happy hour could put salads on sale on Fridays, which has the added benefit of helping move perishable foods toward the end of the week. There’s no limit to the different ways promotions can be used to generate interest in the micro market and build a loyal clientele.

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