Micro markets present a two-sided coin. On the one hand, they are the new and exciting opportunity in vending today. Even OCS operators are using them to remain competitive. However, on the flip side, are they really all they’re proposed to be?
A veteran operator recently called me to discuss this new opportunity and he brought up some of his concerns. Specifically, they included the local health department, a high theft rate (he’d heard 10 percent or more) and violation of the Americans with Disabilities act (ADA).
He is the second generation leader in a business that goes back decades. He knows vending, and has some valid concerns about this “new” opportunity – concerns I’ve heard from others. However, while micro markets are “new” more and more research is coming in and I’ve researched some of these issues.
Health department questions
Currently, industry members focused on safe food practices are telling operators to invest in food-grade coolers that automatically lock if the temperature drops below safe levels. This satisfies many local health department concerns about an unattended food environment and certain municipalities actually require it already.
The shrinkage issue
Theft certainly is a concern among operators, and locations. But, from the operators running micro markets, the percent isn’t usually as high as 10 percent. I hear it’s more in the 2 percent range.
Both micro market suppliers and operators have told me that no one wants to lose a job over the cost of a candy bar, which makes theft less of an issue than some think. That being said, no location is without any theft. Increasing prices to accommodate the shrinkage is one way to deal with it if the location is a profitable one. Otherwise, it might be that micro markets aren’t a good option for that location. Public locations can certainly experience higher rates of shrinkage.
ADA compliance is a touchier issue. Right now, the kiosks follow the required laws, but there is a concern that eventually, the laws will require something be done about the shelving. At an industry trade show in the fall of 2012, Heidi Chico, president of the Wittern Group, said there is no such law affecting micro markets, so legally speaking, micro market operators are not violating the ADA requirements.
While there are no easy answers, in life or business, micro markets do seem to be gaining placements rapidly. That is surely a sign of their success in an operation. However, we’re not lemmings, thankfully, and raising thoughtful concerns is valid. With knowledge, know-how and a little determination to overcome obstacles, we can certainly all enjoy a good thing.