Prepare For Restaurant Food In The Workplace

July 26, 2018

Restaurants are coming to you and using human resources to do it. That was the message of a recent panel discussion of CEOs at a restaurant conference in Chicago, IL, covered by Nation’s Restaurant News. The gist is that there is a “quickening shift” in sales going from in-store to off-premise, which includes customer pick up of meals and using delivery services such as DoorDash. Restaurants are looking to their HR departments to help hire and train employees just to grow this off-premise area of business. One CEO is quoted as saying employee roles have significantly changed in the last 10 years to accommodate the technology and human interaction related to off-premise. In the next 10, it will be an even larger change, with more importance on training employees just for this segment and having dedicated lines and pick up areas.  

Threat to vending 

What this means for vending and micro market operators is more competition. Now it’s not just quick serve restaurants vying for the daytime meal dollar, but high-end, branded restaurants. If it’s easier for employees at a location to order food from these restaurants while at work, then the options in the micro market or vending machine will have a hard time competing. The food may be equally as good, but these restaurants succeed by making a name for themselves and creating a following. This is not something that exists in the vending and micro market space. To this day, we remain largely invisible to the end user, working with the location manager, HR manager or facilities manager. We don’t always have the powerful brands that resonate with consumers.  

What you can do 

Realistically, it will be hard to compete, but that does not mean giving up. This isn’t the first time competition has threatened the industry. It does however mean being smart with offerings. One way to deal with the problem is to partner with the competition. Negotiate special catering deals that bring these restaurants into the workplace on your terms. I have heard of operators that do this with local specialty grocery stores who work with all-natural items. Some operator will cater in perishable favorites to locations once a week. Who pays for this catering varies, sometimes it’s the operator, as a marketing expense to drive consumer loyalty, and sometimes it’s the location, who wants to offer free, yet special food to employees without going to a full pantry service model. 

In addition to catering, returning to the basics of good merchandising is essential. While consumers may order food elsewhere, the accompanying drink could just as likely come from the vending machine or micro market. Sales data per products type will be imperative in maximizing profits at these locations, including analyzing the success of higher end branded beverages that go with the higher end meals being catered in.  

Beyond drinks, candy and pastries continue to sell, despite the near constant talk about healthy items. Position these treats as a dessert to a meal in on-site marketing. They become add on items to any food bought from vending machines and micro markets, or just a little extra treat after that restaurant meal the employee had delivered. Either way, the goal is to produce increased sales.  

Competition may not feel good, but it can help us evolve. Be aware that restaurants are trying to find ways to expand their offerings and that it will end up in your locations.