6 Tips For Breaking Into Pantry Service

March 15, 2018

If you are doing office coffee service (OCS), pantry service is a logical progression. It is the same business model as OCS, where the products are delivered and/or stocked in the break room and offered free to employees. The company location pays for the products, just as they pay for coffee. Also, you already have that location on an existing route. Pantry service is a great way to increase the ticket. Here are some tips for getting into the game, along with some of the challenges.  

1. Aim for lower employee counts 

Fast growing small/mid-sized companies with 30 to 40 employees are prime candidates for pantry service. They probably already have someone stocking the break area with snacks and coffee to fuel their staffs, but this isn't the person's main job responsibility. By offering pantry service, an operator would be saving this person time and energy. Plus, the company has already allotted a certain dollar amount per employee for edible benefits. This makes it much easier to sell the idea of pantry service than if the company hasn't dedicated any resources to refreshment. Larger companies will likely have allocated money per employee for these types of benefits too, but tend to use national service providers, or get locked into a corporate contract in all locations. In addition, it's often easier to grow with a company than take over an existing mega account.

2. Ask for current invoices 

When trying to sell a location on pantry service, operators should ask for the current invoices related to the food and drink benefits already being offered. In some areas it's important to beat the retail price they are paying (say, in coffee). However, in other areas it's alright to be a little over because there are other benefits. One is service, the fact that someone is there to fix or address service issues. The other is that by using an office coffee service provider, there will now only be one vendor and one invoice. Operators should make this advantage clear to potential clients, which will be a welcome benefit for the person responsible for provisioning the break room, and the accounting department. 

3. Offer an open box ordering solution 

One thing online retailers and big box stores can't offer is small quantity delivery, often called open box. The person provisioning the break area needs to order an entire case of something in order to get the best price, even if the location will not go through the product before the expiration date. Because operators have multiple locations and warehouse space, this can be a way to offer near-bulk pricing on multiple items, regardless of the quantities ordered. The ability to mix and match products will be an important benefit to the decision maker.   

With pantry service, a location might want a product outside the vending distributor channel. Operators willing to handle the specialty request should make certain the location understands it's a special order item. If the location decides not to continue ordering it, the location still needs to use up all the product in the warehouse, regardless. This takes some of the risk off the operator, while still offering customization for the location. 

4. Make communication a priority 

Locations willing to spend a few dollars per employee per day are going to want to see how the money is being spent. Operators should plan to send reports on what has been consumed in the pantry service along with stales and spoilage. Willing to be a bit more transparent is important. In addition, operators should be ready to discuss solutions when a location nears its monthly budget limit before the end of the month. Solutions such as swapping out items in the next delivery, stretching time between deliveries, upping the budget, etc. need to be discussed in an open dialogue with the decision maker.  

5. Strictly adhere to the budget 

Communication and budget go hand in hand. Operators proposing pantry service should maximize the products available to employees within the budget. That means careful consideration of high-priced snacks, such as hard-boiled eggs and certain types of fresh fruit. These are popular among employees, but can quickly eat a large portion of a budget. Pantry service operators need to balance these high-priced items with less expensive ones to offer the most products and value to a location. This is the expertise and guidance decision makers expect from providers and will help sell pantry service. 

6. Analyze your resources 

Adding pantry service isn't without challenges. The most daunting of which is the increased product inventory needed. Operators will need to analysis their warehouse management system and personnel to ensure both are adequate to the considerable increase in SKUs pantry service can bring with it. Customer service representatives will need to be assigned to each pantry account with clear expectations on reporting and monitoring. The rewards will be worth the extra investment.