The adoption of unattended retail technologies, such as vending management system deployment and use of telemeters and cashless devices managed remotely through the cloud, continue to be on the rise. And, throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, contactless transactions became a high-tech tool for vending, micro markets and office coffee service. For most U.S. operators, the pandemic called for an acceleration in their digital transformation.
Here are a few technologies that are enhancing micro markets, including solutions for delivering fresh foods to workplaces and novel vending machine counterparts that can work alongside micro markets.
Avanti Markets designed a remote ordering solution – with micro market and vending operators in mind. Operators can use SimpliGet to set menus supporting local food orders that are delivered to secure lockers or other designated pickup areas. Customers place their orders on the SimpliGet website with funds from their Market Card accounts.
Customers will enjoy the benefits of freshly made options delivered during a set window, with contactless delivery to ensure a safe experience. Notifications arrive via text and email messages.
Menus, order cutoffs and delivery times are managed through a companion SimpliGet Manage website. Orders are handled through active and future queues, and fulfillment is tracked by the foodservice provider. This flexibility allows operators to use their own commissaries, outside kitchens or third-party food services. Menus can be rotated or changed as desired. Deliveries are made to pickup counters or Avanti’s optional lockers.
The locker system allows for contactless distribution. Delivery personnel place the order in a secured cubby with a QR code. The customer will use a scan code sent by email or SMS message to retrieve their order from the lockers once notified of delivery. Lockers run a UV-sterilization sequence after an order has been removed. If lockers are not in use, an operator can drop off an order at a designated pickup counter.
Robotic micro bakeries
San Francisco-based Le Bread Xpress Inc. markets Bake Xpress, a robotic vending solution that can dispense pastries, pizza and artisan sandwiches freshly baked at the time of order.
Bake Xpress micro bakeries offer up to six menu choices per machine, ranging from croissants to pizzas. Each food item is prepared and partially baked at a traditional bakery before being stored in the Bake Xpress refrigeration unit. Selected items are freshly baked in Bake Xpress’ onboard smart oven before being dispensed. In use, operators can specify Bake Xpress menus based on their customers’ preferences, choosing from 25 artisan foods created in partnerships with suppliers nationwide.
In November 2021, Bake Xpress partnered with Macy’s Westfield Valley Fair in Santa Clara, California, and installed a custom-branded Bake Xpress robotic micro-bakery adjacent to the toy department, offering shoppers convenient in-store meals and snacks. With its full menu of fresh-baked meals and pastries, Bake Xpress complements the beverage and snack options also offered, while providing Macy’s customers with a fun, high-tech experience. Bake Xpress features a Macy’s-branded machine wrap and a custom menu selected by Macy’s.
ViaTouch Media’s VICKI, initially designed to complement high-profile retail brands and venues either as a module that could snap into store shelving or as a stand-alone vending machine, is an IOT self-checkout solution for retail. Replacing traditional vend mechanisms that use moving parts, VICKI features a secured door to protect products and allow access. The door unlocks once payment is authorized. VICKI is also a virtual assistant, and, like Amazon’s Alexa, she speaks to and listens to customers.
AI-powered VICKIs are being deployed in traditional workplace breakroom venues. Additionally, VICKI is getting a lot of attention in the cannabis vending sector.
The machine’s climate control system supports ambient and refrigerated operation.
High-profile brands and retailers are using VICKI to merchandise product and collect consumer data. Select 7-Eleven stores have been merchandising $10 to $50 items through VICKI. Building off this c-store model, micro market operators have an opportunity to vend high-end nonfood goods behind VICKI’s secure door.
Fresh food 24/7
If the pandemic showed us anything, it’s that touchless, self-service and order-ahead options will be requirements for many customers going forward.
Among the latest innovations in 365 Retail Markets’ tool chest is 365Dining, a kitchen management and ordering system. Patrons place their orders whenever they want from their 365Pay app or MyMarketAccount.net. 365Dining can also be used as a self-checkout system in a micro market or as a stand-alone cashier system in a café setting.
The 365Dining platform gives customers the ability to purchase fresh foods 24/7 and to have self-checkout functionality. Its order-ahead option allows customers to select menu items and pay from their desks or any other on-site location.
An optional locker system is part of 365Dining’s suite. The tamper-proof lockers promote contactless food deliveries by holding items in individual cubbies that require a code to open. The insulated cubbies can keep food hot or cold for at least 30 minutes.
From fresh food delivery solutions and AI-powered vending machines to on-demand baked goods, operators have high-tech unattended retail options to enrich the micro market experience. ■