Committed to quality and design in the new micro market landscape

April 28, 2021

Michelle Harrington is an operator with a unique perspective. With a background in human resources, she immediately recognized the value of micro markets years ago. Confident about their direction, Ryan and Michelle Harrington, owners of Royal ReFresh, have been committed to micro market growth for the past seven years.

“When Michelle saw our first micro market, she helped me set it up and was on site for the grand opening and was excited about it,” Ryan said. “She told me ‘You really have something here. This is something that, with my experience, I would bring to our company and tell the purchasing manager or facilities manager that we need this for our employees.’ We incorporated her thinking as an HR person into our sales plan from that point on.”

Fueled by micro markets

For the Harrington’s Portland, OR-based company, the sales plan has been working. While the company offers coffee service and vending (more than 200 machines), micro markets are the vehicle that is driving the growth. “Right now, we have around 175 markets out there. We still have a lot of closed markets that are going to start reopening soon,” said Ryan. “We plan to add 100 new markets in the next year.”

The changing landscape

The Harringtons recognize that the micro market landscape has changed over the past seven years – changed in a way that requires micro market operators to elevate their game.

“I think in the first few years and back in 2014, '15, '16, we blew our customers away every time when we would remove the old vending machine bank and replace it with a micro market,” said Ryan. “Everybody thought - this is awesome and it's such a big improvement. Fast-forward to now, I think a lot of prospective clients, purchasing managers and human resources professionals, they now know what a micro market is. They have had them already for years and they are not so easily impressed.”

Ryan said that the micro market business is evolving and now, quite often, Royal ReFresh is replacing an existing micro market operator who has failed to keep pace with rising client expectations. “It is much more competitive in that respect because we are not just competing against existing vending machines,” he said. “Now, we have to say, ‘I know you have a micro market, you are used to the concept – here is what we will do to improve it for you, to take your existing program to a higher level.’”

Turning to the dream team

When Royal ReFresh needs to elevate its game, they turn to trusted suppliers for support; specifically, the “dream team” of 365 Retail Markets, Translucent and Fixturelite. “We work exclusively with 365 Retail Markets because they offer the best technology and support,” Ryan said. “They are always moving forward and improving.”

Years ago, when the Harringtons were seeking advice about the micro market business, 365 Retail Markets suggested that they connect with Steve Closser. This was before Closser started Translucent, the industry’s leading micro market consulting firm. “I still remember our conversation to this day and give Steve a lot of credit for getting us started. The assistance from Steve was very valuable,” said Ryan. “Translucent is a trusted partner today and will have a role in our future growth.”

Fixturelite – a design partner

“Our very first Fixturelite offering was a custom-built market that we had to fit in a specific space at a location. It was a fully custom-built market, and they did a fantastic job,” Ryan said. “As a result of that project, we realized that Fixturelite was not only a supplier of high-quality fixtures, but was also a design partner.”

“I really like the fact that they work with you on the design, the renderings. We have heard great reviews from our clients. Fixturelite even went as far as working with the client's corporate colors and design schemes and incorporated that into their new market. The client was blown away,” said Ryan. “Their commitment to customer service, that's one thing that separates Fixturelite from the competition and stands out to us.”

Quality and design will be critical

Ryan added that Fixturelite is the perfect choice for any client who is committed to having quality fixtures and design in their location, something that is emerging as a priority in an increasing number of deals.

“In the next 12 months, I think we're going to be taking a lot of micro markets from cafeteria locations. I also think pantry is a possibility as well, where locations maybe do not want to offer a full pantry service and they're interested in a subsidized market. Just from the numbers over the past few months, I would say around 35% will come from replacing existing micro markets,” said Ryan. With all these scenarios, Ryan recognizes that quality fixtures and a focus on design will be critical.

A formula for success

“Moving forward, we recognize that to be successful, we will need to continue to differentiate ourselves from the competition,” said Ryan. “That is where our partnerships with Fixturelite, 365 Retail Markets and Translucent will certainly contribute to our success.”

Are your clients focused on design and quality? Fixturelite can help: Learn More


Industry consultant and contributing editor Bob Tullio ( is a content specialist who advises operators in the convenience services industry on how to build a successful business from the ground up. Tullio recently launched a YouTube channel, b2b Perspective, designed to “elevate your business in two minutes” and is currently developing an online course, Leverage the power of LinkedIn to grow your business.

As he is a recognized industry expert in business development and sales, NAMA retained him to write and narrate the new online course, “Selling Convenience Services,” which is now available. Use discount code B2B10 for an instant discount and for free access to upcoming Q&A Webinars from Tullio in the coming months. Here is a free sample of the course.


[Credit: Fixturelite]
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