The Tale Of Pantry Service And Micro Markets

Sept. 9, 2015

The average breakroom is going through an evolution. Automatic merchandisers are transforming into service options that can provide increased product variety to customers, specifically pantry service and micro markets.
At a very basic definition, pantry service and micro markets are very similar. Both provide snacks, food, beverages and assorted other items outside the constraints of a vending machine to employees at a workplace. Really, the key difference from a user’s perspective is that with a micro market, the employee pays for the items at a self-checkout kiosk, while with pantry service, the company pays. From an operational perspective, both require additional resources for warehouse management of products and delivery scheduling.

However, despite their commonalities, the two services are evolving differently in the industry. When asked about new services office coffee service (OCS) providers added in 2015, 10.5 percent indicated they adopted pantry service and 16.7 percent added micro markets. Full-service operators are more likely than OCS-only operators to operate a micro market. OCS-only providers, on the other hand, reported pantry service as an area of growing potential, with one out of five ranking it the fastest-growing segment over coffee and other services, about 5 percent higher than the overall OCS provider industry.

A division of history

Which service is being more readily adopted appears to have a great deal to do with how the operator defines their operation. If it’s an OCS-only provider, then pantry service is often the next step. With pantry service, there is more flexibility with how much an operator wants to invest and ultimately offer to customers. Just adding soda and snacks, for example, requires fewer resources than managing the vast SKUs and data analysis needed by a micro market. Full-service operators already know how to manage a large inventory of products in a warehouse. They also have experience with delivery personnel and are able to understand how they will have to manage a micro market.

The real advantage to either system is that they bring new flexibility to our industry and locations. This flexibility will be important as breakrooms continue to take shape, meeting the need to offer refreshments and necessities to employees with less structured work schedules and spaces. This includes employees who have varied telecommute schedules and non-traditional breakroom designs. This new area needs to include products and services that can double as employee perks so employers are willing to spend more for them. It will be an interesting ride as the industry works to offer a solution outside the proverbial box.