There has been much discussion around the idea of a “new normal” in the post-COVID-19 world. At press time, COVID-19 cases are rising in many areas of the country, forcing some businesses to temporarily close or reduce services, while other business owners are making the difficult decision to permanently close. Some employers are hesitant to bring their employees back into an office environment, leading operators to wonder about the extent of the work-from-home trend.
Perhaps there is no “new normal.” If there is one constant, operators have had to remain agile and ready to pivot to meet the changing needs of their clients, most of whom are also struggling with declining revenues and an uncertain future.
Operators have a reason to remain optimistic, though. As we reported in our last issue, our annual State of the Industry report on vending and micro markets revealed that 2019 was the strongest year yet for convenience services. While we still don’t know what the post- pandemic world will look like, one thing is certain: Consumers will want to purchase food and beverages in a safe and convenient way, and this industry is ready to meet that need.
In this issue, we discuss how to manage a safe and welcoming micro market throughout COVID-19 and beyond. While operators have always adhered to high standards of cleaning and sanitization in markets, it’s important to communicate to clients and their employees about the extra cautionary steps being taken in light of the pandemic. Clear communication with your accounts shows that you are taking care of them and can help ease anxiety around using micro markets. Your clients will appreciate that you are going the extra mile to provide meals, snacks and beverages so their employees don’t have to leave the workplace.
Operators have also had to change how they manage office coffee service (OCS) accounts. Fortunately, suppliers started developing touchless solutions long before the pandemic hit, enabling consumers to order, personalize and, if needed, pay for their beverage without touching any equipment. We also discuss how operators can maintain tight security in their operations, especially throughout the pandemic — business owners should exercise extra caution as criminals could take advantage of small businesses in a struggling and chaotic economy.
While the COVID-19 crisis has been devastating, there are some silver linings for operators. Technology suppliers report that the pandemic has accelerated the trend toward cashless and contactless payments as consumers place a high priority on touch-free transactions. As consumers grow more comfortable with mobile payments, they may be more willing to sign up for loyalty programs, increasing engagement and overall sales.
Whatever the future holds, we’re with you every step of the way.