Welcome To The Self-Serve Era

Oct. 24, 2016

We have written a lot about the changing consumer. Their desire for snack variety, healthier fresh food and convenience has led to growth in the vending segment, especially in micro markets, which currently represent over 10 percent of operator revenues. What is driving micro market growth at this point is not just the ability to offer a greater number of grab and go SKUs, but the ability to offer the consumer a more customized dining experience in the place where they spend the majority of each weekday. In a word — work. It’s here that the ability to enjoy their favorite drink and ideal meal was most elusive (unless it was brought from home). With micro markets, operators are able to get much closer to giving this ultimate personalized dining to workers without the cost outlay for the employer of a cafeteria. Choose a salad and then your favorite dressing. Pick and choose different options to create your perfect lunch. Choose a hot beverage recipe from the specialty coffee machine in the micro market, and then customize it by size, strength and solubles. 

A time to shine

Consumers love micro markets. At no other time, with no other generation, would they have worked so well. The Millennials, the Baby Boomers and everyone in-between has adjusted to an on-the-go, snack centric eating style. Consumers are willing to pay for quality and healthier items (certain healthier items) in micro markets — especially when compared to vending. They are comfortable with self-checkout and indeed relish using technology to accomplish tasks once associated with manual processes and personnel. They’ve evolved the idea of breakroom refreshment with how they spend their money. That is why I argue we are in the micro market era, where we will see more of this type of service — perhaps double and triple in placements. However, it continues to be highly competitive, where successful operators must push the standards to stand out. It’s a time when operators must review other relevant channels to see what is working and how they can best compete. 

Evolve or perish

One thing that nature and business have in common is that times change, and so must those of us who wish to survive. Some operations are researching new equipment or services because they feel they need to — their competitors are offering it and they must also. While this is most certainly true, it will never produce the best results. New and evolving workplace refreshment solutions need to be driven by out of the box thinking and a proactive approach that will meet the needs of today’s customer, and those of tomorrow.