Back to the office: Micro markets provide convenience
Stand up coolers for healthier food options – Unattended stores or micro markets, with refrigerated food items, in the office setting are starting to buzz again. After a couple years of uncertainty, employers are asking their employees to come back to work through various hybrid models. It may take some time for workers to be comfortable in the work setting, so now is a good time to show them that you care about their health and wellbeing.
Serve yourself in a micro market that offers fresh and healthier refrigerated items! It’s a concept that everyone loves, and a micro market with delicious options is an ideal solution for employers interested in engaging their employees more. The concept of having a micro market with healthier and more nutritious refrigerated food options also offer convenience. And if it’s well-stocked it saves the workforce both money and time as they don’t need to leave the building. Think of it as an automated employee lunch or break room with products on shelves and refrigerated stand up displays. They can be tailored to each business with a customized selection of drinks, snacks, and meals options.
We are also seeing many new technologies today in the vending and micro market space and they make the experience for the shopping workforce more intelligent. They also make the business itself more efficient, adaptable, and profitable for the operator.
Most often found at workplaces with more than 125 employees, micro markets are the fastest growing segment of the food-service channel, with plenty of space to keep growing. There are currently 26,000 micro markets in North America and the number is projected to grow to 35,000 by 2022. Now that micro markets have seen a record-breaking year in 2020, both operating companies and product manufacturers are looking at how to optimize micro market product sales with more IoT and AI technologies. Here are just a few of the advantages of today’s micro markets tech oriented commercial refrigeration cooling displays:
A micro market means 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
Instead 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. They want healthier refrigerated food options. 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.
Food safety and easy, touchless payment
Much like smart packaging, automated temperature management systems like the Minus Forty’s NAMA approved SmartLock, gives operators more control and a higher degree of confidence that their food is being maintained at a safe temperature. A cooler cabinet SmartLock food health monitor is a built-in device that alerts retail managers to a change in refrigerator or freezer temperature that could jeopardize the state of the food. If the temperature rises above a certain temperature point for a pre-set period, the unit automatically locks the door preventing access to potentially contaminated food. This is especially important in micro market environments that are often accessible 24 hours a day.
Now there’s smart vending that includes touchless payment systems, where tablets are installed on the door of the refrigeration cabinet. The tablets can read a customer’s credit card, take a payment, and then give the customer access to the food and beverage products inside. Here there’s an honor system, where the customer pays for exactly what they take out.
In another level up, Minus Forty has the same payment solution, PicoCooler but then it’s connected to shelf weight sensors inside the cabinet to determine what products have been removed by the consumer, and then automatically charge their card. You also have video recognition as the customer is pulling the product out of the display merchandiser, the product is identified and charged to the card. After the transaction is completed and the merchandiser door is closed, the door locks itself.
Using data and promotions
There are systems like SmartConnect that accesses micro market merchandiser data including temperature, door opening status, evaporator temperature, power failures, and compressor and defrost cycles. Owners can check current and past merchandiser reporting for alarm conditions such as high temperature, door open, malfunction alarms and remotely silence alarms. Its cloud-based platform provides instant notifications and alerts via text or email, so owners can respond remotely and ensure inventory safety. SmartConnect delivers business efficiency, enhanced customer service, quality-assurance compliance, and better profitability.
To successfully launch a micro market, it’s important to incentivise employees to explore it when it’s first installed, and then offer promotions on an ongoing basis to build loyalty. Digital signage can help advertise promotions and offers can be pushed out to staff in email blasts. Promotions come in all shapes and sizes. Think of refrigeration units as a “blank canvas” and from a marketing standpoint, a very effective way to feature food products and beverages through colorful door stickers, banners, and decals, and bright, high visibility branded backlight signage.
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 workforce clientele.
Purchasing an energy-efficient, stylish, and modern technology commercial merchandiser is a great step toward bringing more sales to your office building micro market.