The Big Idea 2014: Unmanned micro-markets

damian-monticello

Damian Monticello
Corporate Hospitality Services Manager
Florida Blue, Jacksonville, Fla.

We were looking for something for our smaller sites, the ones that are too big to be supported by traditional vending but not large enough to support a café without a very substantial investment. 

We opened a couple of micro-markets in late 2010/early 2011 for some of our offices in Tampa and Orlando, and they worked very well. From there, we’ve continued using the micro-market format whenever we have that need from a building population standpoint. I have five open currently and I have another three that are in various stages of development.

The micro-markets are more than vending. They have a lot of the stuff that you would see in vending, like snacks and bottled beverages and stuff like that, but they also have a food component where you can get sandwiches and salads and heat-and-eat entrées that aren’t stuck behind that piece of Plexiglas like in a vending machine. The customer can actually open the cooler, touch the product, look at it, flip it over, look at the nutritional label, all these things that would make them feel more comfortable in making the purchase. From an investment standpoint there wasn’t the labor because it’s completely unmanned—everything is self-checkout, just like the self-checkout lines in the grocery store. We can sell anything with a barcode, even sundry items.

We partner with local vending companies to stock and supply the micro-markets. We work with them to identify the menu cycle for the entrée salads and the heat-and-eat entrées. Then it’s just like servicing our account from a regular vending standpoint, but it’s a different dedicated route for them because they need the refrigerated trucks and the freezer space. Another upside is that the self-checkout payment kiosks communicate back to the vendor, so they know exactly what’s been sold and they’re not making unnecessary trips to restock or coming out with product that they don’t need. 

Customers can use credit cards, and the vendors we work with also have their own declining balance cards that employees can get as a membership keychain tag and they can fund that tag with cash at the kiosk and then use the tag to deduct money from their account to make purchases. It’s all done electronically.

The customers have loved it, especially in places like our Williamsport, Pa., office at Novitas Solutions. It’s an office that has about 400 people and there isn’t anything really close to them in terms of food options. There, we took the traditional bank of vending machines and replaced it with the micro-market concept. 

More From FoodService Director

Industry News & Opinion

Foodservice operators and other employers in New York City are adjusting to a new law that enforces paid time off for staff who have been the victims of certain crimes.

Called paid safe leave, the benefit is believed to be among the first of its kind in the nation. A more limited version has been in effect in Minneapolis since last summer.

The New York law applies to employees who have been the victims of actual or threatened domestic violence, unwanted sexual contact, stalking or human trafficking.

Workers can also opt for safe paid leave if a member of their...

Industry News & Opinion

A Massachusetts bill to end lunch shaming has been stalled in the House, reports South Coast Today.

The House chair of the Education Committee voted on Tuesday for further study of the bill, which would prevent schools from throwing away hot lunches and/or serving an alternative meal to students behind on lunch payments. Under the bill, schools would also be unable to bar students with unpaid balances from participating in extracurricular activities.

Additionally, the bill asks schools to take action in reducing families’ meal debt by helping families apply for free or...

Industry News & Opinion

The University of California, Santa Cruz is converting its Cowell Coffee Shop into a “multi-service basic needs cafe” to aid students facing food insecurity .

The new cafe is being created through a partnership with dining services, the school’s center for Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems and UCSC’s Cowell College. Due to open at the start of the fall semester, the lower part of the cafe will continue to be a study space for students (with free coffee and tea) and will also host nutrition and financial wellness programming.

Upstairs, the kitchen will be used as a...

Managing Your Business
quitting job

What prompts foodservice managers to clean out their offices and head out with a last paycheck? A new survey suggests the triggers may be changing with the times.

The canvass of 2,000 restaurant professionals, conducted by placement firm Gecko Hospitality, shows lifestyle issues abounding among the top 10 reasons for parting with a restaurant employer last year.

Here are the gender-specific lists:

Top 10 reasons female managers leave

1. Better opportunity

2. Unemployed

3. Relocation

4. Not satisfied

5. No growth

6. Long...

FSD Resources

Code for Asynchronous jQuery Munchkin Tracking Code